The E-10's viewfinder is a real TTL type, in the path of the lens is a permanent beam splitting prism which directs 50% of the light up into the viewfinder this gives you a real TTL view. We measured the viewfinder as being 92% accurate (providing a view equivalent to 2080 x 1580 pixels of the final image). While I commend Olympus for giving us a TTL viewfinder I'm troubled by a few things:
- The size and round shape of the eyepiece often leads
to visual vignetting at you find yourself "dodging" the camera
left, right, up and down to get the viewfinder view just right (something
I've not found with other digital SLR's), I'm not sure how users of
corrective glasses would go on.
- The other thing I found a little strange is there
doesn't seem to be a particularly well defined focusing screen, I found
my eye focusing THROUGH the lens rather than at the point where the
camera was focused.
- I also found it a little disconcerting that there seems to be some distortion of the image into the viewfinder, if you aim the camera straight at a subject then gently angle it up and down there's visible distortion of the image (it looks like barrel distortion), obviously this never effects the final image but it's something that's unexpected.
All that off my chest and working around those "funnies" I found the viewfinder usable and perfectly acceptable 90% of the time, just like any other SLR. The rubber flange was comfortable and sensible protrusion of the eyepiece means you don't have to tilt your head to one side nor worry about "nose smear". The status bar display below the image is useful and repeats some of the information found on the top LCD display.
Note the dioptre adjustment ring around the eyepiece (just behind the rubber flange), just to the left of this is a eyepiece shutter lever which pulls a mechanical curtain across the eyepiece (internally) which is useful for sensitive / long exposures where light may enter the optical system through the eyepiece.
The E-10 is unique among digital SLR's in having a non-removable lens. Having said that it's has a fairly practical 35 mm - 140 mm (equiv.) range of focal lengths and has a mechanical zoom ring (yay!). It's made of very high quality multicoated glass with the use of aspherical pieces. With an F2.0 - F2.4 aperture range it's also VERY fast and bright allowing lots of light in. The image on the right below shows the lens with the supplied lens hood attached.
Infrared Focus system
More innovation! The E-10 has a removable cartridge which is used to load batteries, this cartridge can take either two Olympus CR-V3 Lithium battery packs or four AA batteries (like a good set of NiMH rechargeables.. my recommendation). One thing that will definitely fox you when you first put AA's into the cartridge is that the top contacts don't touch the battery.. Never fear, the contacts are on a "floating" platform which is pushed down onto them when inserted back into the camera. Below you can see the cartridge out of the camera, half inserted and inserted and locked into place.
The other reason for a removable battery cartridge is to allow the optional "screw on" B-HLD10 battery pack / portrait grip which provides power from a massive 4200 mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery.
Behind the plastic, sculpted storage compartment door (opened by pushing the locking door lever upwards) you'll find two card slots. First of all is the SmartMedia slot (Olympus are obviously still tied into that deal), beside this a CompactFlash Type II slot which can take either Type I or Type II cards. When Olympus first announced the E-10 everyone was initially elated to hear about this Type II slot, that soon turned to disappointment when we read in the press release that the E-10 does not support the IBM Microdrive (which, by far, offers the best storage for the dollar). In our preview of an early prototype we had the camera working quite happily with a Mk I 340MB Microdrive, and certainly this newer production camera also appears to work with the MK I 340 MB Microdrive, however it certainly doesn't like my MK II 1 GB Microdrive (it won't turn on properly and goes into endless loops).
My recommendation? Don't try to use an IBM Microdrive in an E-10, Olympus don't officially support it so if anything goes wrong with the Microdrive or the Camera you may be left with an either an expensive door stop or dead card. You also wouldn't want to risk a Microdrive full of images in a camera which doesn't officially support it, either...
Good, logical design from Olympus, all the connectors are on the left side of the camera where we have everything from a remote terminal (top) to PC flash synch terminal (next down), behind a small plastic door you'll find the AV output and USB connectors and below this behind a rubber door is a 6.5V DC power input connector.