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Timings & File Sizes

Performance wise I found the E-20 to be a fairly frustrating camera. Four things limit the camera's performance:

  1. Storage media write speed. In our tests (below) the E-20 had CF write speeds which were approximately the same as a 3 megapixel Nikon Coolpix 995. This is not 'professional digital camera' performance, and nor is it helpful on a 5 megapixel camera where each JPEG can weigh in at 2.4 MB.
  2. If you shoot with the 'live view' LCD you will have to wait at least 10 seconds between each shot, this is because the live view does not return to the LCD until the camera has finished writing the contents of its image buffer. It doesn't stop you from shooting with the viewfinder (until the buffer is full), but for anyone using the LCD for framing it can become very frustrating.
  3. In the same manner you can not certain camera settings (such as image size / quality) nor enter any camera menus while the camera is writing to a storage card.
  4. Despite its looks, target audience and price the camera can only buffer four images at a time, no matter what the image size / quality selected. Couple this with the slow media write speeds and you often find yourself with a full buffer waiting for the camera to write images away.

Those are the negatives. On the positive side the E-20 focuses very quickly and has very low LAG times, if you shoot with the viewfinder you'll be able to fire off a shot every 2.4 seconds (which is quick) and most other camera functions are quick enough not to be too noticeable.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2560 x 1920 SHQ 1/4 JPEG image (approx. 2.4 MB per image).

The media used for these tests were:

  • 128 MB SmartMedia (TwinMOS)
  • 512 MB SanDisk Ultra Compact Flash Type I card
  • 1 GB IBM Microdrive Compact Flash Type II card
Action Details Time, seconds
(128 MB SM)
Time, seconds
(SanDisk CF)
Time, seconds
(Microdrive)
Power: Off to Record   8.5 5.6 7.5
Power: Off to Play Image loading 9.1 6.1 7.6
Power: Record to Off   2.6 2.5 2.5
Power: Play to Off   2.2 2.2 2.2
Mode: Record to Play Image loading 1.6 1.6 1.7
Mode: Play to Record   1.0 1.0 1.0
Mode: Format   42.5 2.1 2.9
Play: Magnify Each step ~0.5 ~0.5 ~0.5
Rec: Thumbnail view 2 x 2   1.6 1.6 2.2
Rec: Thumbnail view 3 x 3   1.9 1.9 2.7

Action Details Time, seconds
Auto Focus LAG At wide angle ~0.6
Auto Focus LAG At telephoto ~0.8
Shutter Release LAG Using viewfinder <0.1
Shutter Release LAG Using LCD monitor 0.2 - 0.3
Total LAG At wide angle ~0.8
Off to Shot Taken Using 512 MB SanDisk Ultra CF card, at wide angle 5.8
Shot to Shot Using viewfinder *2 2.4
Shot to Shot Using LCD monitor (wait for live view to return) *2 11.5

*1 Generally using continuous auto focus will at least "prepare" the cameras focus system to be close to the ideal focus point.
*2 Image quality set to 2560 x 1920, SHQ (1/4 JPEG). For the LCD monitor test record view was disabled, the second shot was taken only when the live view returned to the LCD monitor although you can press the shutter release after 2.4 seconds (assuming there is space in the 4 image buffer).

Legend
  Quickest
  Significantly slower

Auto Focus LAG is (roughly) the amount of time it takes the camera to autofocus (a half-press and hold of the shutter release button), this timing is normally the most variable as its affected by the subject matter, current focus position, still or moving subject etc. This timing is an average.

Shutter Release LAG is the amount of time it takes to take the shot after autofocus, this timing assumes you have already focused (half-pressed the shutter release) and now press the shutter release button all the way down to take the shot. This timing is an average.

Total LAG is the total time it takes (not just the two above added together) if you haven't pre-focused, that is no finger touching the shutter release button, press it all the way down in one movement, this new timing is how long it'd take if you were in one of those spur-of-the-moment situations. This timing is an average.


Continuous shooting

The E-20's image buffer sits just behind the CCD in the cameras 'imaging chain'. This means that no matter what image size you select the maximum number of frames remains the same (see table below).

Image format IS/PS Frame rate Maximum frames
JPEG, TIFF IS 3.6 fps 4
RAW IS 3.6 fps 3
JPEG * PS 5.4 fps 7

* In PS mode you can only choose JPEG image format

Continuous mode Flush Timing

The next thing to test is the E-20's write speed. We do this by shooting a burst of four images and timing the red LED next to the storage compartment which is an indicator of card access. The total size of the files recorded is then divided by the amount of time it took to write. This is repeated three times for each image type to produce an average throughput.

The media used for these tests were:

  • 128 MB SmartMedia (TwinMOS)
  • 512 MB SanDisk Ultra Compact Flash Type I card
  • 1 GB IBM Microdrive Compact Flash Type II card
Image Type 128 MB SM SanDisk CF Microdrive
Time (s) Throughput Time (s) Throughput Time (s) Throughput
RAW (3) 45.5 640 KB/s 47.0 619 KB/s 45.4 641 KB/s
TIFF (4) 145.7 428 KB/s 132.5 471 KB/s 134.2 465 KB/s
SHQ JPEG (4) * 42.4 239 KB/s 41.1 247 KB/s 43.0 238 KB/s

* SHQ JPEG at 1/4 setting (2.5 MB each @ ISO 160)

The E-20's write performance is squarely down at the consumer end, with a JPEG write speed around 240 KB/sec it's almost identical to Nikon's $800 Coolpix 995. Compare this to Canon's EOS-D30 which managed to write JPEG's to the SanDisk card at 665 KB/sec and to the Microdrive at 800 KB/sec. Aimed at professional and semiprofessional photographers, with even larger file sizes and priced above $1500 we would expect the E-20 to offer faster write times than this.

For comparison:

Camera Best JPEG write speed
Olympus E-20 240 KB/s
Sony DSC-F707 530 KB/s
Nikon Coolpix 995 370 KB/s
Canon EOS-D30 1,100 KB/s


File Flush / Display Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the media card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed (shutter click was heard) and stopped when activity indicator LED beside the storage compartment went out. This means the timings also include the cameras processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task".

The media used for these tests were:

  • 128 MB SmartMedia (TwinMOS)
  • 512 MB SanDisk Ultra Compact Flash Type I card
  • 1 GB IBM Microdrive Compact Flash Type II card
Image Type Time to store
(seconds)
  Time to display
(seconds)
SM SanDisk Microdrive   SM SanDisk Microdrive
2560 x 1920 RAW 17.2 17.1 16.8   1.7 1.7 2.5
2560 x 1920 TIFF 38.0 34.2 34.9   1.3 1.3 2.2
2560 x 1920 SHQ 1/2.7 19.2 15.5 17.1   1.7 1.7 2.2
2560 x 1920 SHQ 1/4 11.2 10.9 11.6   1.6 1.6 2.4
2560 x 1920 HQ 1/8 9.0 9.0 9.4   1.4 1.4 2.4
1792 x 1344 HQ 1/8 13.3 13.9 14.4   2.2 2.2 2.4
1024 x 768 HQ 1/8 5.9 6.4 7.1   1.6 1.8 2.4

As I expressed above these write times are really too slow for a 'professional' digital camera.


File Sizes

Here's a comparison of the average byte size of each of different image size / quality combinations.

Image Type File size *1
(~ = approx.)
No. on supplied
16 MB SM Card
No. on
256 MB CF Card
2576 x 1924 RAW *2,3 9,697 KB 1 25
2560 x 1920 TIFF *3 15,616 KB 1 16
2560 x 1920 JPEG 1/2.7 ~3,400 KB 4 64
2560 x 1920 JPEG 1/4 ~2,400 KB 5 92
2560 x 1920 JPEG 1/8 ~1,200 KB 10 166
1792 x 1344 JPEG 1/8 ~570 KB 25 413
1280 x 960 JPEG 1/8 ~300 KB 49 791
1024 x 768 JPEG 1/8 ~160 KB 75 >999
640 x 480 JPEG 1/8 ~80 KB 164 >999

*1 All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (especially the amount of detail captured). For example, take a photograph of a fairly empty wall and you'll get a small JPEG, take a photograph of a bush with a lot of detail and you'll get a larger image. File sizes here are closer to the later, the larger size of file you should expect.
*2 All 'active pixels' are recorded in the RAW file, however the final image produced by the Olympus RAW processing software is 2560 x 1920.
*3 Additionally a 7 KB .THM (a 160 x 120 JPEG thumbnail) is written with the same filename as the .ORF (RAW) or .TIF file.


Battery life

We ran the camera through our new battery life test. This test is designed to be fair and comparative to each camera and battery type:

  • Take 4 shots without flash
  • Wait 2 minutes (50% of the time powering the camera off)
  • Take 1 shot with flash
  • Wait 1 minute
  • Repeat

All batteries had been fully discharged and recharged before the test and all cameras were reset to their factory default settings. Here are the results:

Camera
Prosumer / SLR-Like
Battery Power Battery life Number of shots
Minolta DiMAGE 7 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 1 hr 14 mins 125
Minolta DiMAGE 5 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 1 hr 56 mins 195
Nikon Coolpix 5700 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 2 hr 08 mins 215
Canon PowerShot S40 NB-2L 3.9 Wh 2 hr 13 mins 225
Minolta DiMAGE S304 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 18 mins 235
Canon PowerShot S45 NB-2L 3.9 Wh 2 hr 28 mins 240
Nikon Coolpix 4500 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 2 hr 27 mins 250
Fujifilm FinePix 6900Z NP-80 4.1 Wh 2 hr 29 mins 250
Nikon Coolpix 990 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 30 mins 255
Nikon Coolpix 995 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 2 hr 30 mins 255
Nikon Coolpix 5000 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 2 hr 32 mins 260
Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 33 mins 260
Canon PowerShot Pro1 BP-511A 10.2 Wh 2 hr 36 mins 265
Canon PowerShot S50 NB-2L 3.9 Wh 2 hr 39 mins 270
Minolta DiMAGE S404 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 39 mins 270
Sony DSC-V1 NP-FC11 2.8 Wh 2 hr 39 mins 270
Olympus C-7000 Zoom LI-12B 4.5 Wh 2 hr 44 mins 280
Nikon Coolpix 8700 EN-EL1 5.0 Wh 2 hr 45 mins 280
Minolta DiMAGE 7i 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 46 mins 270
Olympus E-20 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 48 mins 285
Canon PowerShot G1 BP-511 8.1 Wh 3 hr 00 mins 300
Nikon Coolpix 5400 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 3 hr 06 mins 315
HP Photosmart 850 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 3 hr 12 mins 325
Sony DSC-S75 NP-FM50 8.6 Wh 3 hr 15 mins 330
Nikon Coolpix 8800 EN-EL7 8.1 Wh 3 hr 27 mins 350
Fujifilm FinePix S602Z 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 3 hr 29 mins 350
Canon PowerShot G2 BP-511 8.1 Wh 3 hr 32 mins 355
Casio QV-4000 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 3 hr 38 mins 365
Olympus C-5050 Zoom 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 3 hr 48 mins 380
Casio EXILIM EX-P700 NP-40 4.5 Wh 3 hr 48 mins 385
Sony DSC-S85 NP-FM50 8.6 Wh 3 hr 50 mins 400
Sony DSC-F717 NP-FM50 8.6 Wh 4 hr 02 mins 405
Pentax Optio 750Z D-LI7 6.6 Wh 4 hr 03 mins 415
Sony DSC-V3 NP-FR1 4.4 Wh 4 hr 05 mins 415
Nikon Coolpix 8400 EN-EL7 8.1 Wh 4 hr 09 mins 420
Sony DSC-F707 NP-FM50 8.6 Wh 4 hr 20 mins 440
Fujifilm S7000 Zoom 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 4 hr 23 mins 445
Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 NP-400 11.1 Wh 4 hr 26 mins 450
Canon PowerShot G3 BP-511 8.1 Wh 4 hr 32 mins 455
Canon PowerShot G5 BP-511 8.1 Wh 4 hr 33 mins 460
Pentax Optio 550 D-LI7 6.6 Wh 4 hr 36 mins 465
Minolta DiMAGE A1 NP-400 11.1 Wh 5 hr 02 mins 515
Leica Digilux 2 BP-DC1-E 10.1 Wh 5 hr 05 mins 515
Sony DSC-F828 NP-FM50 8.6 Wh 5 hr 28 mins 540
Fujifilm FinePix S5000 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 5 hr 31 mins 555
Canon PowerShot G6 BP-511A 10.3 Wh 5 hr 38 mins 570
Olympus C-8080 WZ BLM-1 10.8 Wh 5 hr 52 mins 595
Other test notes:
 • LCD monitor is left on during the battery test
 • The camera is powered off half of the time and left on half of the time (switch every 10 iterations)
 • There are now higher capacity AA NiMH batteries available, however in the interests of fair
    comparison we will continue to use our 1600 mAh test set

The E-20 performed very well, lasting almost three hours on our standard set of NiMH rechargable AA's it put in a performance beaten only by Casio's QV-4000.

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