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Timings & File Sizes

The E-420's overall performance was fairly good. The camera is responsive in most situations, focus is relatively quick (although it slows down considerably when using Imager AF in Live View) and the shutter lag is short. Good buffering means that you can 'pump' the shutter release button firing off one shot each time. Continuous shooting was slightly better than the predecessor's and media write times were quick. Like the E-410 the new model takes a little longer than (most) other cameras to start up due to the SSWF sequence. There is also a delay introduced when using live view (see the differences in the second table below).

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3648 x 2736 JPEG F (approx. 4,800 KB per image).

The media used for these tests were:

  • 2 GB SanDisk Extreme IV CF card
  • 2 GB Lexar Pro 133x CF card
  • 512 MB Olympus xD Picture Card H

Media comparison

Action
Time, secs
(2 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(2 GB Lexar)
Time, secs
(512 MB Olympus)
Power Off to On *1 1.1 1.3 1.1
Power Off to Shot 0.5 0.9 0.6
Sleep to On 0.5 0.5 0.5
Power On to Off <0.1 <0.1 <0.1
Record Review RAW *2 1.0 1.1 1.2
Record Review JPEG *2 1.1 1.2 1.2
Play RAW 0.2 0.2 0.2
Play JPEG 0.2 0.2 0.2
Play Image to Image RAW 0.1 0.1 0.1
Play Image to Image JPEG 0.1 0.1 0.1
Play Image to Image RAW + JPEG 0.8 0.1 0.1

Live view off / on (2 GB SanDisk Extreme IV)

As you can see enabling live view adds between a half to one second to most operations, this is primarily due to the time it takes the camera to raise the mirror, open the shutter and initialize the sensor for live view.

Action
Time, secs
(Live view off)
Time, secs
(Live view on)
Power Off to On *1 1.1 1.3
Power Off to Shot 0.5 1.7
Sleep to On 0.5 1.4
Power On to Off <0.1 0.8
Record Review RAW *2 1.0 1.8
Record Review JPEG *2 1.1 1.8
Play RAW 0.2 0.9
Play JPEG 0.2 0.8

*1 This is the amount of time before the status screen is shown on the LCD monitor, as shown by the next measurement you can actually take a shot fractionally earlier than this.
*2 Time taken from the shutter release being pressed to the review image being displayed on the LCD monitor.

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/400 sec, F4.0), ISO 200. Measurements were taken from audio recordings of the tests. Media used were the same as above. (Note that we also tested with Noise Reduction on / off without any difference in performance).

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held after burst (buffer full)

Burst of JPEG HQ images

Timing
2 GB SanDisk
Extreme IV
2 GB Lexar
Pro 133x
512 MB Olympus
xD H
Frame rate (average) 3.4 fps 3.4 fps 3.4 fps
Number of frames 34 28 10
Buffer full rate 2.8 fps 2.7 fps 1.0 fps

Burst of RAW images

Timing
2 GB SanDisk
Extreme IV
2 GB Lexar
Pro 133x
512 MB Olympus
xD H
Frame rate (average) 3.4 fps 3.5 fps 3.4 fps
Number of frames 10 10 7
Buffer full rate 1.8 fps 1.7 fps 0.6 fps

The E-420 just about manages the specified 3.5 frames per second which makes it marginally quicker than its predecessor. With a fast card such as the SanDisk Extreme IV you can shoot 34 frames in JPEG F before the buffer is full. The camera then keeps shooting at approximately 2.8 frames per second until you run out of space on your memory card. Shooting with an xD Picture Card instead of Compact Flash will reduce the number of images in one burst and slow you down after the buffer is full.

File Flush Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card. Timing was taken from the instant the shutter release was pressed to the time the storage card activity lamp beside the compartment door went out. Media used were the same as above.

Image type
Time, secs
(2 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(2 GB Lexar)
Time, secs
(512 MB Olympus)
Approx.
size
3648 x 2736 RAW + F 2.3 2.3 4.2 14,500 KB *1
3648 x 2736 RAW 1.5 1.5 2.8 9,800 KB
3648 x 2736 JPEG SF 1.6 1.6 2.3 6,400 KB
3648 x 2736 JPEG F 1.3 1.3 2.1 4,800 KB

*1 File size reported here is the size of the RAW and F quality JPEG files added together.

The E-420 delivers relatively fast write times with high performance cards such as the SanDisk Extreme IV or Lexar Pro. An approximation based on the above times would be around 6.2 MB/sec for RAW and RAW+JPEG images.

USB transfer speed

To test the E-420's USB transfer speed we transferred approximately 128 MB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a SanDisk Extreme IV 2 GB CF card.

Method
Transfer rate
Olympus E-420 (MTP device mode) 3.9 MB/sec
Olympus E-420 (Mass storage device mode) 5.5 MB/sec
CardBus PCMCIA adapter 10.5 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme IV USB 2.0 card reader 13.3 MB/sec

The E-420 delivers average if not stunning transfer rates in mass storage device mode. Switch to MTP (PTP) mode and as we've seen with other cameras the transfer rate drops by about 40%. As you can see the best performance (some three times faster) was achieved using a relatively inexpensive SanDisk USB 2.0 card reader, this would always be our recommendation.

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