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Wednesday, 25 February 2009


This is the camera for luddites. The LCD screen can be turned inwards so the user can pretend its a film camera, and the "pinhole" "art filter" adds vignetting to the photograph without requiring the photographer to use a computer.

On a more serious note, the term (art filters, [vomit]) is rather sad and its features are a bit limited, but I believe it will evolve into "photoshop inside the camera" functionality sure to appear in more cameras from more brands sooner rather than later. Is this a good thing? Can't hurt if, as you say, it can be left unused.

I was waiting for the flaw to be its xD card slot, which is the vestigial flipper of the camera world. Thankfully, this really small camera can still take the human-sized compact flash cards as well.

The Nikon D700 also has face recognition.

Mike, have you seen their ad for E-4xx? I think it was mentioned here, maybe even by me. It features a very cute Japanese actress and the camera in the ad features a hand-woven strap. It's not as fru-fru as this case, but yeah, that's apparently their target audience in Japan. It seems it's only in the West that big macho men like me want a small camera. :-)

Art filters are for those who shoot JPEG and don't want to post-process in any way. No sir, no way, no how. 'Cause anything that the filters can do, you can do in development. Anything.

But the camera looks extremely attractive. If this is the entry level, I'm waiting for E-3's successor eagerly.

"Photoshop inside the camera" could be interesting if it were cropping, curves, and levels, replacing the LCD with a touch screen and stylus, rather than "art" filters. Add wireless file transmission, and it would cut out the PocketPC that some photojournalists use for basic editing and file transmission in the field (like the system from www.idruna.com).

"The LCD screen can be turned inwards so the user can pretend its a film camera"

OTST, another comment. No, it's not the reason. Olympus specifically said they did it to protect the LCD in various situations. Besides, instead of turning the previews off, you can just turn the LCD inside if you shoot in unlit places.

You said it better than I could ever. Me thinks the Art is short for Artificial not Artistic.

On the flip side my pocketbook might actually not be totally empty if I bought this one. I'm down to just a 14-54 Oly lens and this might be a smart purchase as an upgrade from the "brick" E300 that I love but is literally falling apart.

On the flip flip side being able to compose square and not just think square is more than nifty.

i don't think a red and white case is necessarily feminine...hahha

its not unthinkable that guys would want a case like that too..plus they have a brown version

i emailed Luigi Crescenzi a while ago asking if he will make one of those half case for the Canon 5D and his response is that there is hardly any demand

i'd have thought that a lot of people would want a nice leather case for their cameras!

Hmm ... I guess it depends how you look at it. Instead of seeing a decent camera marred by fripperies, I see a camera firmly targeted at the casual photographer equipped with a surprisingly good spec and features.

On paper, this could well be the best camera in its group.

I applaud Olympus for not cutting corners on what is (I assume) a mass-appeal entry level camera.

There are doubtless many who will start off using the art filters to try and achieve something different (surely the desire is laudable even if the method misguided). Some, maybe only a few, will realise the answer lies elsewhere - this camera would seem to give them fantastic room for growth.

BTW, why have only Olympus realised that "Live View" only becomes really useful in the field if an articulated screen is fitted? (Sony gets half marks for a tilting screen).

Perhaps Cankon feel the need to protect sales of exotic viewfinder attachments.



I wouldn't mind the Art Filters, I'd simply not use them. The xD slot is a nuisance in the sense, that it "uses up" the place of a "real" second slot, which would indeed be welcome. Why Olympus continues to be in denial of the world as it is, aka an xD-less world, escapes me. What really does grate with me though is, that here is an entry camera with custom modes, but it's made using them more or less impossible. Same as on the e-520 and e-30 btw.

The two custom modes can only (!) be activated by the fn-button, or rather only one of them . This button also is the only means to access a reference WB shot, DOF preview and several other functions. No, there's no menu workaround, you have to make a choice here. If you want ref WB or the other custom setting, you'd have to re-configure the fn-button via menu first. The usage then is, that you press the button simultaneously with the shutter. Now, imagine trying to dial in some exp comp at the same time (using another two fingers)...

It drives me up the wall - much more so than if they weren't including custom modes in the first place. So here's a free customer psychology insight for you, dear Olympus management.

The downside on this line of cameras was always reported to be image quality, and shouldn't that be the first thing we talk about? Gadgets, features and "art modes" - why excite any drool or sputum before we see what strengths and weaknesses the darn thing has as an image capture device?

Does anybody else find that half case suggestive of feminine undergarments, or is that just my sick mind?

Another recent post described how snapshooters effectively subsidized the rest of us in film days. If Olympus can use "art filters" to create a wider market for their SLRs -- effectively subsidizing other Olympus shooters -- I'm not going to complain.

It does look very nice, especially that shot of it with the 20mm pancake.
Now come on Olympus, use the same stabilised sensor in your micro-4/3 cameras!

I think the "Art" filters are an excellent idea. They are something I myself would probably never use but I see their point. They just might make photography fun for some people and not just about apertures, shutter speeds and technicalities.

Photography is taken too seriously most of the time and there is a need for some fun and craziness. That can be seen for example in the success of Lomographic Society and the likes.

Experimenting and playing can be a valuable part of creative process and that might lead someone to create some “real” art someday.

This + Panasonic Leica D Summilux 25mm f/1.4 AF = yum.

The Canon G10 has a self-timer that doesn't start until a face is detected. It's a useful application of face detection.

As the owner of an E-520, there are two things I wanted when I bought it, that it didn't have : a flip-and-twist screen, and lower high ISO noise.

Olympus has obviously addressed the first one with their last couple of models. I doubt they've addressed the second one, given the resolution increase. But if they kept the noise the same with more pixels, that's very nice too.

And I also wish they'd get rid of xD in favor of SD or CF, but they do provide the single CF slot, which is good enough.

So overall, the E-30, 620, and MFT if I decide to move that way all have me pretty excited - and scared that I'm going to want to upgrade my body or get multiple bodies much sooner than I thought.

Thankfully, instead of Olympus introducing a "gotta trade up to ... " camera every six months, they keep giving me reasons to be content with my E-510. On the other hand, a rotating/swiveling LCD would be neat to have.

Face recognition is useful for fast-moving people-oriented photography -- events, basically, whether for pay or for your own snapshot album. It lets you rush straight to compose, shoot, skipping that earlier step where you put the focus spot over something important and focus. It's faster, so you'll get more of the great shots you see. It's useful.

Of course you *also* want a more user-controlled focus mechanism, for other kinds of photography, but I'm sure that's there too.

My, my, surely features likely to attract new dslr buyers, many perhaps of the female persuasion, can't be that bad! Many of them will become intrigued by the more advanced aspects of photography and will progress; much as many of us progressed from the simple box camera or polaroid of our day.

Given the tendency of auto-focus cameras to focus on anything but the subject, perhaps face detection isn't so bad? And a chibi filter? Well, it's good for a chuckle, anyway.

I remember being in a camera shop, circa 1978 or there abouts, while a Ricoh salesman was demonstrating the auto-exposure capabilities of their SLR's. I walked over with my F2 in hand and snidely asked "where's the creativity button?"
I think they got the last laugh, because now I use the features that I used to scorn, like autofocus, on a regular basis.
It will be interesting to see what this evolves to. Does look like a great little camera, though!

I really like the idea of multiple aspect ratios. As I read the press release, the chosen ratio will show up both the viewfinder and the LCD screen. I'm someone who loves squares and still does a lot a shooting with various TLRs. Shooting digitally, I've got a problem. That is, using one of my current DSLRs and cropping to a square is by no means the same as seeing and composing through a square viewing screen or viewfinder. It looks like this Oly will allow me to do that. (And, with the articulating screen, I can even emulate shooting a TLR at waist level!)

"Art Filter"!!??
I'd prefer "Autocrap"

Maybe a good software geek could create a busuness that re-purposes those strange functions contolled by wheels with indescipherable symbols.


Useless features seem to appear everywhere these days, I simply ignore them. On the other hand, I thought you would point out the real "flaw" of this series of cameras: the viewfinder. The tiny view is impossible to ignore. Come on Olympus, just make one with the OM4Ti viewfinder and you'll have a new customer.

Oh, that Art Mode is just the beginning. In the future, entry-level cameras will come with Henri Cartier-Bresson mode, Daido Moriyama mode, Ansel Adams mode, Annie Liebowitz mode, Robert Mapplethorpe mode, and of course, Jill Greenberg mode.

I currently have an E-3 and I would be ready to buy it, but for the fact that my Panasonic LX3 has totally spoiled me and I'm not sure I will ever again buy any camera weighing more than 10 ounces or to big to get in my pocket.:)

Art Filters...sounds like a private eye in Chicago.


Should be a great camera (I already love the E-420). Anybody interested in this camera should look into the 12-60mm Oly lens, the best SLR lens I've ever used.

Oly's quality-to-weight ratio is phenomenal.

Very tempting indeed - two card slots, better viewfinder, only a pound... if oly had a smallish 20mm F2, well then, I'd be all over it.... heck I might even use the "art" modes=)

Are you really gonna wait til summer to tell us what kind of camera you got?

I'm still laughing at the idea of a LeRoy Neiman Art Filter. Less funny, perhaps, is this Oly promo video featuring ten University of Arts students in Philly who were given E-620's to play with. They certainly seem to embrace those "Art" filters! (Warning: Pseudo-indie production values exuding "lot's of fun, lot's of madness..." ) http://www.getolympus.com/e30/index.asp?cid=e30_uarts_lfsn

Hmmm...maybe Adobe will view this as an opportunity to partner with one or more camera manufacturers and develop in-camera filters with the Photoshop brand. Whoa, dude!

I'm sure someone has mentioned this already, but I'm pretty sure that "face detection" is the same as on my E-520, that being strictly in Live View and not through the viewfinder.
I could be wrong, of course.

I love my E-3. In a random party I was in, one woman came up to me and said "What a handsome camera." How often do people say their Canons are beautiful? (Well, I think they are downright ugly) In any case, Maitani san's DNA lives on. The E-620 looks very pretty.

As for prior comment about E-3's successor. Well, the Achilles' heel for the E-3 "pro" needs is more dynamic range. They can solve that with better supporting circuitry around the sensor. Yes, the base sensor may be handicapped comparing to a good full frame / APS sized sensor just because it is smaller, but the cost is 1/4" and they only have to design the circuitry right once. The manufacturing cost will not be substantial. I hope they do that right.

I don't fret about extra modes unless they either cost more or get in the way. And given that this camera allows you to hide menu items (oh, if only my Canon did that!), getting in the way is not my worry.

And Scott, no, image quality is not necessarily the first thing we talk about. Really good AF (5 cross-type sensors) and ability to take macros without lying down in the mud (swivel LCD, finally!) are two of the things I could upgrade for. And live view + swivel LCD is a dream for macro photography. Image quality at ISO 100 is pretty much good across the line in DSLR land. Now it's just a question of what ISO you stop at.

Hmmm. A sensor two thirds the size of my Nikon D40's with twice the pixels, a whole 5 grams lighter, but fifty percent more expensive. Where is my wallet?

Were it really for "artists" it would have Smile Detection. If anybody in the frame is smiling the camera will not function.

Dear Scott,

You wrote: "The downside on this line of cameras was always reported to be image quality, and shouldn't that be the first thing we talk about? Gadgets, features and "art modes" - why excite any drool or sputum before we see what strengths and weaknesses the darn thing has as an image capture device?"

I think the answer is that one of the strengths that this line of cameras has always had "as an image capture device" is the size, weight and features of the cameras. The Oly E-4xx and E-5xx cameras are all very full-featured, yet cost and weigh a fraction of the competition. This is a legitimate part of what makes them excellent image capture devices. There are, of course, disadvantages to the Four-Thirds format (at least for those who require high dynamic range, the ultimate in high-ISO performance or extremely shallow depth-of-field), but it is up to each user to determine what combination of strengths they need and what weaknesses they can accept.

To risk an analogy to the film days: my Pentax MX and Olympus OM-2(n)* presumably produced inferior negatives to my medium format equipment. Yet they are small, light, lightning-quick to operate and have extraordinary viewfinders. This means they can be used to get pictures in situations where medium format wouldn't be practical.

I have a Nikon D300, which is likely to rank higher than the new Oly E-620 on at least some of the metrics mentioned above. Yet even though the D300 isn't a "big" camera (it is smaller and lighter than the Nikon D700, not to mention the D3 and D3x), I still find that it is a substantial chunk of magnesium to lug around. I'm on the lookout for a lighter, more discrete camera, and the E-620 seems very appealing.

Especially given Oly's stellar zooms.


*BTW, the Oly E-4xx cameras are about the same size as a Pentax MX or Olympus OM-2 and probably weigh less. I expect the same to be true of the E-620. As others have mentioned, it's too bad the E-620 doesn't have the same viewfinder as an MX or OM-2, however!

I was waiting for the flaw to be the xD card slot as well.

xD really needs to die already.

Nice camera otherwise though, except Oly don't have enough pancakes to go with their small cameras yet. I'd still rather a Pentax Km and 3 pancakes at the moment.

Or wait for micro 4/3rds.

Damon wrote:
"Ansel Adams mode,"
Will it drive you to Yosemite National Park?

Will it have GPS to say "stand here!"

Why not just have the pictures pre-stored in the camera?

My first reaction was to laugh when I read about the art filters, but then I realised that what I want is a Caravaggio filter for portraits.

Don't forget the killer feature: Backlit buttons!!!

Finally a digital camera that can be used at night or in a darkened theatre.

Yeah, I'm smitten too.

Love this cam, especially the articulated screen.

But I'm waiting for Hasselblad to come out with a model which has face recognition.

(But seriously, face recognition is not a frivolous feature, dudeski, it's very useful.)

Yeah, the art filters. I wish Olympus would at least run a parallel ad campaign highlighting the nice features for photographers, which tend to get overshadowed. The ability to tweak each focus point for both the wide and tele ends of up to 20 lenses plus add exposure adjustments to accommodate characteristics of each of those lenses as well can be very useful. The pitch and roll gauge in the E-30, both in the viewfinder and on the LCD, is a great addition to a camera. These cameras bring together a very appealing group of features for serious photographers.

As for the art filters, there are a lot of people who want to print straight from the camera, and not fool around with other stuff. And these give them an easy way to try some different looks. Think of how many people just dropped off their film to be developed, and would have probably done the same thing even if they could have easily played with the processing themselves. I'm sure many people now just download their pictures to stores and sites to be printed, and these art filters are a fun way to change the perspective. And PP'ing can get very expensive! Actually, has anybody here tried them? I have the E-30, and a couple of them aren't that bad, and do a pretty good job. My feeling is that they are more sophisticated than most give them credit for. You can get a preview of them on the LCD if you use liveview too. Will I use them much? Probably not, but I do find myself playing them sometimes.

Anyway, don't let the art filters define these new cameras from Olympus--they bring much to the table for serious photographers as well.


I agree. The backlit buttons are the kind of thing that should make other camera makers go "Duh! Why didn't I think of that?!?!?" I mean, we have backlit buttons on cell phones, remote controls, etc., but we don't have them on cameras? While I can imagine situations where I wouldn't want the backlighting on, it should at least be an option.


"The downside on this line of cameras was always reported to be image quality."

Scott - I would say that yes, the image quality is worse than any of the mid level and pro cameras. But it's very comparable to all the other entry level cameras, and I would hazard plenty good enough for most people (myself included). I know most people don't often think about "good enough" for image quality anymore (per Ctein's last post), but I did when I bought my 520.

"There are, of course, disadvantages to the Four-Thirds format (at least for those who require high dynamic range, the ultimate in high-ISO performance or extremely shallow depth-of-field)..."

If you're talking about the current state of the format, that's true. Certainly, DOF is always affected by four-thirds. But the other parameters - high dynamic range, and ISO performance - aren't inherently limited by the format. It's easier to acheive those in a larger sensor with larger pixels, but nothing says that given enough R&D a four-thirds sensor couldn't be nearly as good.

do old OM lenses fit on the new 4/3 Oly's?

I admit the art filters would not be used by many serious photographers, but...

Speaking as the devil's advocate, go back and look at:

• the presets in the Develop module of Lightroom
• the Artistic filters in Photoshop. "Artistic" is Adobe's word.

I guess my point is that people wouldn't avoid buying Photoshop because it has built in presets. For the beginning photographer, having them in the camera is a lot more economical than Photoshop. For more advanced users, see what works and avoid what doesn't. In other words, what Photoshop users do.

KeithB asks, "Will it drive you to Yosemite National Park?"

Even better: It will make the local dung heap look like Mount McKinley.

I've been distracted by art filters.
On a more serious note it looks like a slick little camera,
BUT how does it fit in the micro 4/3 vs standard 4/3 world?
I'm eagerly awaiting the Oly micro 4/3 offering. Just don't understand this regular 4/3 line extension.
I hate product line confusion, having lived through all the Sega video game devolution.
Be careful Oly, sleeping with Panasonic could be uncomfortable.

What's not to like? A dSLR that's as small as the smallest SLRs of the film era, in camera stabilization, light weight...You should be shouting out about this camera from the rooftops, Mike. Oh, wait, you just did...

Somebody should simply invent a "switch off all frou-frou modes" option in the firmware/menu.

Art filters: even though most of the folks reading this site probably have no interest in them they are very cheap to implement, do not negatively affect image quality, and don't change the physical characteristics of the camera in any way.

Olympus was the first to market with a dustbuster and liveview, features that are now becoming common in the marketplace. I see the same thing happening with art filters and also, for more obvious reasons, the swivel screen.

For better or worse many buying decisions are reached, in part, via a detailed comparison of the feature set of each of the candidates. I think the other manufacturers will need to follow along if only to be able to claim feature parity.

Dear Folks,

I'm in the "non-Scott" camp on this, too. (sorry, Scott!)

Image quality is good enough. More than good enough, in fact, for the target audience. After that, it shouldn't matter.

I think the art filters are COOL! I wouldn't use them myself, but they're nothing wrong with the effects that they produce, and a lot of people will have fun with them. And it's not like you're forced to use them.

So, enough with the sourpusses, eh? As Olympus put it:

"As children, our imaginations run wild and finger-painted artistic creations are proudly displayed on our family refrigerators. But as we grow older, we learn to color inside the lines, and have less and less time for art. We often lose touch with how satisfying it is to create something uniquely our own. Olympus delivers the E-620 digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera to bring back that free-style experimenting and the magical feeling of being inspired by our own art.

The easy-to-use Art Filters and Multiple Exposures (built right into the camera) are fun for photographers--whether you’ve been shooting for years or picked up your first digital camera today. Enjoy capturing creative images on the go--without being tethered to a computer and editing software! Now it is possible to easily customize your images so they’re worthy of posting on the gallery wall (or at least the family fridge)."

A bit more market-speakish than I'd write, but the underlying sentiment is one I'd wholeheartedly endorse.

pax / Ctein

When I want to switch off frou-frou modes, I shoot in RAW.

I also shoot with less-than-perfect cameras, on a regular basis. I like both my 5d and my 10d, my Olympus C4040 and my Olympus OMG! Yes, that's a camera, not an expression of disbelief. I like used, vintage, cheap ebay purchased cameras. I like Lomography.

And I have been tempted by Olympus' DSLR's, many times. But if I'm going to buy a new camera, I have a few Demands. One of them is that I know the strengths and weaknesses of the camera's ability to take the kinds of pictures I want to take before I buy the camera. So I'll wait for the hands-on reviews that talk about the pictures, thanks. :) And thanks to everyone who participated in this discussion! Most fun.

It's funny how everyone defending the art filters offer the disclaimer "but I'll never use them".
If I buy the camera I'll use 'em. If I don't like 'em I'll forget about 'em. Sounds almost too easy.
Reminds me a bit of the "debate" about the Leica M8 Safari.
Also, the tired old arguments about the 4/3 sensor show up again. Lack of dynamic range, lack of shallow depth of field etc, etc.
When you actually USE these cameras such problems are rarely encountered. Five years ago I was making fantastic prints up to 13x19" from the 5MP E1 with 50mm f/2 macro and 14-54 f/2.8-3.5. Sharp, nice colors, nice highlight detail, nice out of focus areas. The Zuiko lenses are so good they make up for any "shortcomings" of the sensor.
Things have only improved since then.

Mike, have you forgotten your plea for a DMD? how does the E-620 measure up to your ideal?

We had a hands-on session with the E-620 on the day of release... a dozen first impressions here :

As for m4/3rds, I think that Panasonic see it as their mainstream future (FZ28 successor) including video, and Olympus see it more as a LX3 sized format.

Kind Regards


This is an intelligent angle at the market. The world is transforming from old fashioned film and paper media to electronics, final-result-is-the-screen and so on. Oly has done some serious thinking. There is a crowd who will take lots of patience and skill to post process in Photoshop. But we have new gen people who say, why can't it just happen? Why can't I see it as I shoot? The Art Filters are a software and electronic solution. They are real time preview because electronics can do that, they don't need computer skills, just compositional and shooting skills. This is multi-aspect ratio as well, so you don't need to rotate the camera to take a shot. The micro Four Thirds has an EVF and can do much better in this kind of competition of features but this is pretty good for an entry level old fashioned mirrorbox camera.

"Less funny, perhaps, is this Oly promo video featuring ten University of Arts students in Philly who were given E-620's to play with. They certainly seem to embrace those "Art" filters! "

Olympus is displaying great marketing savvy getting their equipment into the hands of students. I know at least two other major university programs that teach digital imaging with Olympus gear.

I wish my Nikon cameras had a square aspect option. I love square but find it difficult to perceive it my viewfinder.

I don't know...people start with art filters, and before you know it, they're buying Holgas, and then scrounging eBay for Aero-Ektars and Speed Graphics, and within two years, they've ordered a custom camera from a small Chinese manufacturer that will be perfect for their nineteenth-century magic lantern lens, using a film format like 7x11" that has to be special ordered once a year or cut down in the dark from some larger format that probably also has to be special ordered, and before you know it, they've sold the whole kit and started pouring collodion on black glass.

This camera is dangerous.

As an owner of the Olympus E-30 I don't think Art or his filters are all that bad. Case in point...I'm out shooting with family and away from my home computer. I shoot jpg + raw but add a few pictures in there with the art filters for fun. I can quickly upload the jpgs to my family's computer with my card reader without time consuming development and with some pictures that have that 'Art'sy feel to them. I also like the face detection when I'm shooting snaps of my grandson; he's fast and sometimes c-af isn't as good without that option. By day my camera comes away from the point and shoot menu options and turns into my digital SLR where I develop my raw files appropriately and sell the portraits to paying customers. Mind you, Art doesn't come out all that often...but he's fun to play with at times.

It's good to see Olympus finally taking stock of their shortcomings. To date, all their fantastic telecentric Zuikos have suffered a distinct lack of vignetting. And now, with Pinhole filter, problem solved. Nikon will follow suit with a digital noise filter to make their ISO3200 shots look blotchy, you just wait and see!

Olympus has arguably fixed their xD card issue part way with their most recent line of compacts, many of which come with adapters for fitting microSD cards into an xD card slot. It's not really a complete fix, more like one more thing to lose. However, with the prevalence of cell phones and other devices with microSD slots giving that format massive economies of scale, it does take some of the sting out of the high-cost-per-GB complaint generally lodged against xD. But more than that I can't really fault Olympus in this regard for trying.

It is like fishing. Sometime with just a straight-up worm, then others the fluorescent-wiggly thing. But still, one does not know what one will catch.
Maybe the more lures brought along, more likely you'll catch the 'big' one.

Actually, it was Fuji that fixed the xD issue, by making their xD slots dual-format so they handle SD as well. Oly should do the same as xD is a dead format. But Oly always was one to hang on well past reality setting in.

As to the E-620, it looks very nice. Might even consider one as a backup to my G1 as it would handle telephoto lenses better than the G1 does.

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