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Design

The E-10 has what we could now dub the "classic digital SLR shape", that is an L design which doesn't require any "rear" to the left of the lens barrel (as there's no film). Its shape and layout do remind me a little of Sony's DSC-D700/770 cameras.

As I mentioned earlier the entire body of the E-10 is metal, the only plastic areas are the buttons, pop-up flash, storage compartment door and connections door. This makes the camera feel heavy and sturdy, there's certainly no evidence of a single bad fitting seam and no creaks anywhere, this is one VERY well built camera. The hand grip is big and very well designed, deep at the front for your fingertips to tuck in, good shape at the front to hook the grip with a sensibly located and beautifully soft, progressive shutter release.

Around the back the right side of the rear is kept clear for the rest of your hand, again sculpted to fit snugly into your palm, most of the major controls here can easily be reached with the thumb of your right hand. All the controls are of the "locking" type, that means you can't change an option by just pressing a button, all control is carried out by holding a button and turning the main or sub-dial (rear or top front of the camera). At first this is a little fiddley, however you do come to appreciate it and understand how important changing a setting can be in a professional environment (you wouldn't want to accidentally change the image quality without noticing it).

The camera feels well balanced, the bottom left side is nicely shaped to be comfortably supported by your left hand, fingers then fall naturally on the zoom control. The protruding viewfinder eyepiece makes it far easier to use and you don't get any problems with "nose smear" on the LCD.

Here's a size / design comparison of the E-10 beside Canon's D30, which is of course based on a more traditional EOS film body. The second picture (supplied by Olympus) is of the E-10 with the optional B-HLD10 battery pack / portrait grip which provides power from a massive 4200 mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery.


Rear LCD Display

The E-10's tilt-out LCD can be released from the body by pressing a small lever on the left side of the camera (labelled OPEN on the shots below). When opened the LCD by default clicks into one of two "locked" positions (this just means that it clicks into a predefined location, it can still easily be moved). You can of course have the screen at any angle in-between but the hinge mechanism itself isn't stiff enough to hold it there if you move the camera around at all.

On the whole I found the E-10's LCD to be clear and fairly bright, it's cover could have done with an anti-reflective coating, but the ability to have the screen in the "almost straight up" position is ideal for waist level or low floor shots. We measured the rear LCD as being 94% accurate (providing a view equivalent to 2120 x 1600 pixels of the final image).

Default closed position First locked position
Second locked position (almost straight up) Unlocked halfway position

My two MAJOR disappointments with the E-10's LCD are:

  1. Poor resolution of the live preview image, for some reason it is very blocky (seems to be about half the quality of the final review images) and not at all what I'd expected, Olympus do seem to be applying some kind of sharpening algorithm to indicate focus point, but because of the low resolution of the live preview image it's just a blocky mess. Olympus could argue that the LCD live preview on the E-10 is a bonus over what you'd expect of a digital SLR, I'd argue that if you provide a feature it should really perform up to the level of the rest of the camera.
     
  2. Secondly is the badly designed information overlay "status bar" which can be displayed over the live preview image, it's got a solid black background which blocks out about a fifth of the image making it almost impossible to compose the scene with this status bar enabled (why oh why couldn't they just use a transparent background like on all other Olympus cameras?
Crop of the what's seen on the LCD in live preview mode ("real image LCD") Crop of the same scene after the shot is taken, see the improvement? This is what I'd expect ALL the time.
Badly designed information line blocks out some of the image More of the same (though at least you can get to see focus distance on the screen)


Top Information LCD

The E-10's top LCD is clear and logically laid out with plenty of information. It provides all the information you'd expect to see on a traditional digital camera's rear LCD display, indeed a good deal of the settings displayed here aren't repeated on the rear LCD "info" mode.

A diagram of all the information on the display is shown below:

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