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Wednesday, 06 February 2008


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Pentax with the Sigma 18-50.

" The 14–54mm Zuiko lets in 1.5-stops more light, which allows for faster shutter speeds and lower ISOs in low-light conditions. "

With E-510 sensor which offers the same noise at iso800 as other manufacturers' iso1600 and depth of field the same as the 1,5 stop slower kit lenses.

sounds more like 1:1 to me,
but, on the other hand the build quality's much better.

I just nominated this post to 'photography voter'. It's very refreshing to have an article about something other than the two main brands. I'm eagerly looking forward to the next instalment. :)

that should be interesting.
but here's a few corrections.
the 510 is lighter then the eos400 and the rest of the competition (maybe exluding the D-40 but i'm not sure about that.) and the weight of the body stands on 460 grams.
the 14-54 is the kit lens of the Olympus E-1 and is considered to be a high grade lens unlike the kit lenses for the E-510 (14-45 and 40-150) which are standard lenses which in comparison the nikon and cannon's kit lenses offer a wider range and a better quality especially with the 40-150.

i'll keep myself tuned to see how you'll manage with Oly's gear.

thanks for the effort and the time you spent so far.


"If you’re 6 foot 5 inches tall and burly, this weight difference might be negligible."

If you're 6'8" like me, you notice even less. :-)

"dual card slots (Compact Flash and xD)"

Gordon, forget about xD. And that's an Olympus user telling you. xD is abysmally slow for RAW and not much better with big JPEGs. It's no wonder that Olympus started offering SD adapters for their cameras the other day. Fuji, one of the initiators of the format, has already abandoned it.

Limited dynamic range actually isn't. The main problem of E-510 is too steep and contrasty JPEG curve. You can get very nice results in RAW. Check my gallery from Istanbul at


It was done with the combination you have plus the old 50-200.

BTW, if you want to play with old manual lenses, Olympus has recently upgraded E-510's firmware to enable image stabilisation with them.

Actually, 14-54 matches up closer with 18-70 (or 17-65) for APS-C.

"Because of Olympus’ four-thirds format, the 14–54mm has the same effective focal length range as a 17–55mm for APS format" - that's not entirely accurate, the equivalent APS format lens would have a 18-70mm range. The 17-55mm is more or less equivalent to the 24-70mm lens in 35mm format.

you don't mention Pentax ?

".....I’m well aware that Canon and Nikon offer smaller, lighter bodies, but they all lack built-in image stabilization...."

What about the Pentax k100D/k200D.....virtually the same size as the Oly, has anti-shake, very small travel primes/lenses and is cheaper....

OK, so I'm not the first Pentaxian to object here. It's just that compact, image stabilized bodies are old news for us... :)

I've had my 510 for a about 6 weeks now. I was impressed by how much detail the jpegs could pull in but I agree with the author that the dynamic range is limited unless one shoots raw. As for raw the included Master 2 software is an incredible power hog and crashes my computer. Since Adobe no longer supports my Photoshop CS and Light Room is expensive with a nasty learning curve I opted for a trial version of Adobe Elements 6 which has an abbreviated version of Adobe Camera Raw. Made all the difference in the world. I recomend the 14-54 over the kit 14-42. It's faster and it's very sharp, even on the long end and will focus within inches of the subject. I seldom shoot over ISO 400 so noise issues are not a problem for me. As far as auto focus well I just use the center censor and recompose. Using this method the AF is fast and silent though not quite as effective in low light as some Nikons I've used. Overall it's a fine camera with a lot of great features.

I have an E-1 and the 14-54mm lens. I have often considered getting an E-510 as a second camera. The price would be a major factor. I don't want to spend the money for an E-3, but I'd like to have something that is compatible with my Zuiko lenses. I switched my primary camera from Canon to Olympus several years ago, primarily for the self cleaning sensor and the 4/3 format. Although I can use my Canon as a backup, I don't like to have to carry all the lenses.

Perfect timing!!! :0))

I've been leaning towards purchasing this cam for my first DSLR
& buying a good range of lens for some time now..

having started digitally with the C4000 8 yrs ago
(which i dropped & stripped the lens gear on :P) then got the C5050..
been happy with those so why change,
especially now that I'm familiar with the menu & settings

I like the idea of "smaller & lighter"..
only thing I worry about is buying into the 3/4 system..
since I've read a lot of pro & cons on it :/

looking forward to reading more here!
& which lens to get?


A Pentax K100D or K200D or a Sony A200/A300/A350 will be only slightly larger when paired with the superb Sigma 17-70 f2.8-4 lens and offer noticeably better high ISO performance, better AF as well as optional vertical grips (on the K200D and A200/A300/A350), far more capable systems (both offer a reasonably priced higher-end higher-performance body, and Sony will shortly have a compact-ish FF body with 24MP sensor and anti-shake) and much more comprehensive lens lines including excellent prime selections.

If you want Live View, the Sony A300/A350 offer that, while the K200D is weather-sealed. The E-510's only real advantage is size, but it doesn't offer much of an advantage there over its competition from the more innovative Sony and Pentax. Nikon and (especially) Canon offer brand identification rather than performance in their consumer lines.

I love this camera and as a pro user the dust reduction system saves me approx 40 hours a year not having to look for specks on an image.Plus I used to drive my Canon 12 times a year to have it cleaned. The best way to waste time is to check a file and find no dust before you send it on to a client. GB.

It's true that the Pentax K100D and 16-45mm f/4 Takumar would be comparable in size, weight, cost, and capability to the Olympus E-510 and 14-54mm. (The Pentax K200D was just introduced at PMA and isn't available yet.)

To be honest, the reason I overlooked Pentax is because it's so easy to do so. Their market presence is low, even compared to Olympus. Pentax equipment is hard to find on camera dealer's shelves and therefore less likely to receive a hands-on tryout. Not many consumers are willing to order a camera and lens sight-unseen from an online retailer. As for their much-vaunted small primes, they are relatively expensive, especially if you need to buy more than one.

This has nothing to do with the quality of Pentax equipment, but it has a lot to do with why many people (myself included) are reluctant to give it serious consideration.

On the Olympus there is no dedicated button or switch to change between manual and auto focus. You have to enter the menu. This is a deal breaker for me.
Please correct me if there is a way to assign a button via custom functions to do this.

From Dpreview
Pentax's IS is not good as Oly.

Though I shoot Nikon, I'd be interested in reading this as I've been looking at this camera for purposes of 2x crop factor to shoot wildlife with old OM or 4/3 lenses.

To Jason and Bernd:
a 17-55 mm focal length is equivalent to 25,5-82,5 mm for Nikon and Pentax bodies (crop factor 1,5) and 27,2-88 for Canon bodies (crop factor 1,6) in 35mm format; so everyone can be right ;-)
I'm a just a interested reader of this interesting blog, fond of photography but not owner of dSLR yet, so if I'm wrong I will be glad to be corrected.

I'm a longtime Nikon user, but when looking for a light, high-quality, compact system, I went to a Leica M8, which I have not yet fully digested, and may never fully digest. There's something extremely attractive about the small, light, maneuverable fast/zoom DSLRs that are coming out. The problem with the Olympus is the 4/3 thing -- the sensor is simply too small, and unless something wonderful happens with this new Kodak chip (see the Phil Askey site), I doubt that they'll ever fix the inherent noisiness and DR limitations compared to cameras with larger chips. My feeling that the category winner here will be the Pentax K20D, soon to be released, with a larger, 14mp chip, image stabilization, weather proofing, and a more diverse range of lenses, from tiny primes to excellent zooms.

One additional observation:

Lightroom doesn't have a steep learning curve. That's its whole rationale -- you can basically learn everything you need to know to do pretty sophisticated processing in a couple of hours; and in several hours, pretty much master the software. In Photoshop, there is no mastery -- only specialties; it's just not possible to learn the whole thing. Even the experts argue about the best Photoshop methods. Lightroom is seriously different. It may be the best software of any kind that I've ever used, in an early state.


Gordon, I have to respectfully disagree. If you define market presence as availability in major electronics stores, you're right that they carry Olympus bodies and not Pentax bodies. However, none of these stores would even have the 14-54mm lens you highlight - instead they would only have the E-510 body with the 14-42mm lens. So the point that a buyer could try out Olympus in stores is moot because few of them would even have the E-510 body + 14-54mm lens package you've recommended. Any store that has the E-510, E-1, and the 14-54mm lens would be equally likely to carry Pentax bodies and lenses as well.

As for serious consideration, I think the third-party announcements at PMA 2008 would differ. Sigma and Tamron showed very strong support for Pentax and Sony. Almost every lens announced will be made available in their mounts. Of these, only the 10-20mm and 70-200mm will be available for Four Thirds.


Try Lightzone. A pleasure to use.

Or for PC only, try Picture Windows Pro.


Olympus E-400 and Leica 14-50mm? That way, you'd get the tiniest SLR on the market, IS in the same focal length range, and none of the dynamic range issues of the E-410/510. Just an idea :-)

I think the dynamite combo is this camera with the Oly 50mm macro. Light, fast, wonderfully sharp and a nice bright image in the viewfinder. Now if they only had a 17 or 20mm pancake lens to slip in your pocket, I'd feel ready for 90 percent of the shooting I do.

So here's an off topic question (though I am a satisfied owner of an E-510). If the picture at the top of your article is of the actual 510 in your possession, could you tell me the brand of neckstrap attached? I've been looking for years for a nice thin strap like that one, instead of the thick, padded, monstrosities I find in all the camera shops, and I'd love to get my hands on the one in your shot.


I was very pleased to find out that my E-510 only weighed a few ounces more than my C-8080. Took it backpacking last summer in the Sierra Nevada and found it to be an enjoyable experience. I'm also pleased, in a way, that the new Olympus E-3 is so large and heavy . . . will certainly dampen my new camera desire.

Pentax's small primes are far, far less expensive than Nikon, Canon and Leica 4/3.

In Canada Pentax has a very strong retail presence and Pentax Canada actually completely sold its entire inventory of DSLRs before the new models were announced!

What this discussion abundantly demonstrates is that regardless of the reasons one has for picking a particular camera or lens, some photographers will, in good faith, disagree with those reasons and/or disagree with the choice of camera. But that's okay. I'm not trying to argue for the supremacy of Olympus or the inferiority of other brands. I think I'd be happy with practically any compact DSLR that's available with IS and a fast, compact, high-quality, wide-to-tele zoom.

But the fact is that, right or wrong, I bought an Olympus E-510. Those of you considering a similar purchase or who simply want to know more about it may be interested in the next installment, where I get to the heart of the matter: How to get high-quality results from a camera that, if you believe its critics, is incapable of doing so.

Nice article and sounds like a nice DSLR (an old Olympus fan of yore, even have a couple of E1s), but really....is it that much of a difference carrying the 30D w/17-55 vs. the E510? Even all day?

Just doesn't seem to be an issue as deal maker or a deal killer.

5'8"-150 lbs and carry 2 1Ds most all days......

Interesting combination, and very interested to see part 2 of your impressions.
As a similar hater of heavy systems, I carry a Pentax K100D (on a custom wrist strap - can't stand neck straps) with just the three DA Ltd. primes in a tiny bag, and can fully appreciate the desire for a lightweight all-day carrying solution.

I am an Olympus fan. The dust reduction feature is the best in the marketplace. I have never had a dust spot in a photograph.

I have an e300 and Lumix L1. BTW, the Oly format is nothing more than the old half-frame, turned on its side.

It's funny how every time somebody chooses an Olympus, there's immediately people around, jumping up and down, waving their hands, explaining how the choice was wrong.

Leave _be_!

It's irritating like hell and it's no wonder so many Olympus owners can be defensive and prickly as hedgehogs.

E-510 is a perfectly nice camera which will give you excellent results when paired with 14-54.

I'll stop here before I start a tirade...

PS. Hi, Cyn, long time no see. :-)

To John Camp and others that argue that the 4/3 sensor "is simply too small".
From Dpreview: "Overall the Nikon D300, Canon EOS 40D and Olympus E-3 all produce equally as good images (if with different 'looks'), the A700 images look a bit over processed.", studio scene comparison at higher sensitivities (1600 and 3200) in Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 Review.
This is the link http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sonydslra700/page30.asp

It cracks me up how anytime someone gives a little love to brand _________ , some fans of the other brands feel compelled to jump to the defense of their preference with, "Actually, my brand is (take your pick: smaller, larger, faster, lighter, sharper, newer, better, etc.)." Or worse, some feel they have to show that the writer is not too bright for choosing the camera/lens combo he likes. Just take a deep breath, non-Olympus shooters. Nobody said you're wrong for choosing another brand than Gordon did. It's all good; your camera is OK too!


I'm using Phase One Capture One Pro (3.7). Very good software for raw files, easy to use, cheap, has all the basic features one would need and a batch-type workflow. It works great on those older P3s. Version 4.0 is out but I haven't tried it yet.

"On the Olympus there is no dedicated button or switch to change between manual and auto focus. You have to enter the menu. This is a deal breaker for me."
That is simply not true. The E-510 has a AF mode button.

I don't mean to jump into the Pentax vs. Olympus boosterism. The fact is that I own a Pentax, but I also really like what I've seen from Olympus, and would really like to have a setup with an Zukio 11-22, Leica 25/1.4, and Zukio 50/2. But looking at the photo at the top of the post with the e510 and the 14-54, it really doesn't look all that small to me. If small is one of the major criteria for buying a camera, my *ist DS plus 21/3.2 or 43/1.9 definitely seems smaller. In fact, even my K10D plus either of those lenses seems smaller. The K10D plus 21mm lens is 850g, while the e510 plus 14-54 is 895g. So they weigh close to the same, with the K10D a bit smaller. But the K10D setup is only 95mm deep (actually probably less, given that the 21/3.2 only protrudes a little beyond the end of the grip), while the e510 setup is 155.5mm. Again, that isn't a huge difference, but I can stick the K10D in my coat pocket, whereas I don't think that the same could be said of the e510.

There is definitely a way in which this is comparing apples and oranges -- preferences for primes or zooms, preferences for a certain 'look' that each system offers. But so often I hear about how small 4/3 cameras are, and it just doesn't seem to actually be the case.

@filigun80: The E-3 simply isn't competitive with the 40D or A700 at ISO1600 and up, where it performs comparably with previous-generation bodies like the D200 and K10D. The D300 is in another class entirely, more comparable to a 1DmIII than the 40D or A700. If DPReview bothered to look at their own samples, this is clearly visible. And yes, the A700's NR does over-process (the weakness in Sony's on-chip NR tech, you can't turn it off, it's good NR by engineering standards, not photographic ones).

4/3rds tops out at ISO800 for competitive IQ. Above that the current sensors perform akin to a generation older APS-C body from the other makers and aren't competitive with the current tech APS-C sensors.

well I'm headin to the Camera Exchange this weekend to give this baby a good feel & have researched/compiled a list of lens to go with..

14-54, 11-22, 50mm & maybe a 8mm fisheye..

just can't decide tween the 12-60 or 50-200 zoom.. ?

P.S. Hi Erlik! fancy seeing you here ;0))
I read this with my coffee most every morning!

To Adam Maas:
_Did you use a Sony Alpha 350 yet? Where?
_Sigma 17-70 better than Zuiko 14-54? Are you sure?
_How much do you use 1600 ISO? I think that a lot of people talk about noise at high ISO, but not many of them often use more than 400 ISO.

P.S.: sorry for my poor english.

In answer to J. Regan's question about the neckstrap attached to my camera, it's an Unstrap RF. Upstrap happens to be one of TOP's sponsors. You can get to their website by clicking the Upstrap ad, listed in the right-hand column, under Sponsors. Upstraps cost more than your run-of-the-mill camera strap, but IMHO they're well-worth it.

On the "Upstrap"... I love it. And I still love it... only thing is, after less than a year of continual use, I have found that, on my strap, the little rubber nibs have worn down so smooth than it renders the main feature of the strap uneffective, mainly that it is meant to stay up on your shoulder. Perhaps it's worth the price, even for one year's use, but I would like to see the manufacturer work on the composition of the material to afford longer use before this important feature "wears off".

Look forward to your next installment Gordon. No camera company can make every photographer happy. Its okay if you dont like the 4/3rds system, thats is a personal choice, Ive seen awesome photos taken with a 4/3rds system camera, I seen awsome photos taken with a canon/nikon/pentax/sony/minolta also. Ive also seen alot of bad pictures taken with every camera out there. Thanks for info on this combo, any one have a used 14-54mm zuiko for sale?

someone pinch me. this post has me thinking of buying an olympus e-1 and leica 14-50mm.

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