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Design

No gambles here. Olympus have stuck to the tried and tested E-10 design and control layout. This no doubt speeds up their time to market, ensure familiarity for E-10 users and compatibility with existing 'E' accessories. And why mess with something that works? The E-20's design is 'SLR-like' while still distinctively being a digital SLR. There are a couple of very subtle ergonomic changes (such as the tiny lip below the exposure compensation button). The body itself has to be the best this side of Nikon's D1(x/H), a nice rubber hand grip with a sculpted rear and rubber zoom ring the E-20 feels like a professional tool in your hand. Indeed the only plastic exterior components are the battery and storage compartment doors, controls and buttons.

Here's the E-20 beside Canon's 3 megapixel EOS-D30 D-SLR (interchangeable lens). As you can see the E-20 is approximately the same height but is narrower because of the lack of a 'left control side' to the body. The D30 with this lens and a battery is approximately 200 g (7.1 oz) heavier than the E-20.

In your hand the E-20 feels very comfortable, you'd be forgiven for thinking Olympus took an imprint of an 'average hand' in designing the grip and rear sculpting. The grip is rubber coated, deep and has more than enough space at the front for your fingertips. There's a lip at the front which balances against your hand and around the back the thumb grip complements the front. All in all the E-20 is one of the most comfortable and ergonomically well designed digital cameras available.


LCD Monitor (rear)

The E-20's tilting LCD is released from the body by pressing a small lever on the left side of the camera. When opened there are two 'clicking' positions; 20 degrees down and approximately 80 degrees up. The mechanism itself is stiff enough to hold the LCD at any position in-between. The images below represent some of these different positions, the first of course is the normal locked into the body.

Here are my gripes with the E-20's LCD:

('Record view' refers to the option to use the LCD as a live viewfinder for image framing, just like a consumer digital camera)

  • Just like the E-10 the E-20's LCD 'record view' resolution is really pretty poor. For a camera of this price, spec and target audience it's a shame that Olympus haven't improved things since the E-10. I suppose the argument could be that no other D-SLR provides a live view...
     
  • The way Olympus have chosen to overlay information in record view: a black bar which blocks out 15-20% of the frame, why this couldn't be semitransparent or use black outlined text is beyond me (could be a technical reason I suppose).
     
  • But probably one of the biggest gripes is the fact that the LCD provides just 87% frame coverage when used in 'record view' mode. On the LCD you see the equivalent of 2288 x 1716 pixels, the camera captures 2560 x 1920. This means that when framing using the LCD you see center part (note, it's not dead center either) of the image below and can't see the hatched area (which is of course captured).


Top status LCD

The E-20 shares its status LCD with the E-10. This LCD provides a wide range of information, everything from camera settings and exposure information to available frames and internal memory buffer status. This LCD can also be illuminated for use in low light, simply press the LIGHT button, the panel will illuminate for ten seconds.

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

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