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Design

The E-420 is almost exactly the same size as its predecessor which makes it the smallest DSLR on the market. Combining the camera with the new 25mm F2.8 pancake lens gets you an (in DSLR terms) extremely compact package with true carry-anywhere dimensions. The design is almost identical to the E-410's, slightly retro with good ergonomics and a simple but logical control layout. Although the body is made out of plastic, it is a nice quality variant and doesn't feel cheap at all. There is also a rubberized covering on the grip area, which blends in nicely with the overall design and improves handling

Side by side

From the table below you can see that the E-420 is the lightest and smallest digital SLR on the market. While some other manufacturers' entry models are similar in height and/or width the Olympus is considerably slimmer, thanks to its different (significantly smaller) grip.

Camera Dimensions
(W x H x D)
Body weight
(inc. battery & card)
Olympus E-420 129.5 x 91 x 53 mm (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in) 445 g (1.0 lb)
Olympus E-520 136 x 92 x 68 mm (5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in) 568 g (1.3 lb)
Canon EOS 450D 129 x 98 x 62 mm (5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in) 526 g (1.2 lb)
Nikon D60 126 x 94 x 64 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in) 544 g (1.2 lb)
Sony DSLR-A200 131 x 98.5 x 71 mm (5.2 x 3.7 x 2.8 in) 624 g (1.4 lb)

The photo below properly demonstrates the difference in depth between the E-420 and the next model up in the Olympus Hierarchy - the E-520. The E-420 is is quite a bit slimmer, mainly due to the lack of a conventional grip. Note that the depth of the E-520 was measured using a digital caliper (the quoted depth appears to include the viewfinder eyepiece).

In your hand

The E-420 hand grip has been slightly modified for improved ergonomics over its predecessor but it is still a non-typical SLR hand grip. Instead of holding it in a 'gun grip' style you hook a single finger around the rubberized grip at the front of the camera in the same way you would hold a compact camera. Thankfully the E-420 is light enough to be held this way and it is actually surprisingly comfortable.

LCD Monitor

Screen size and resolution have been increased on the new model. The LCD now measures 2.7" and has a resolution of 230,000 pixels (E-410 2.5", 215,000). The viewing angle of 176° is very good but the image could be a tad brighter for live view outdoor shooting. The plastic cover is also a little prone to smearing and reflections.

Control panel display

Because of its lack of a separate status LCD the E-420 provides all essential shooting information on the main LCD monitor ('control panel' displays). You can press the OK button to change settings as they appear on the display.

Viewfinder

The E-420 has a typical prism style viewfinder with a dioptre adjustment and a removable rubber eyecup (for eyecup accessories). The glass of the eyepiece appears to have an anti-reflective coating. Like every Four Thirds digital SLR before it the viewfinder view can be best described as 'small', a lack of magnification means that when you're looking through the viewfinder there does appear to be a lot of black space around the actual focusing screen.

Viewfinder view

Through the viewfinder (the layout is the same as previous Olympus 4/3 SLRs) you will see the center metering circle and three AF areas indicated. The center AF area is sensitive to both horizontal and vertical detail, the two outer areas to horizontal detail only. The selected / in-use AF area is indicated on a half-press of the shutter release by a red circle (LED-like). To the right of the focusing screen is an LCD status column with various items of information including metering mode, shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation etc.

Battery Compartment

The E-420 features the same relatively small and lightweight Lithium-Ion battery as its predecessor; the PS-BLS1 which has a capacity of 1150 mAh at 7.2V (8.2 Wh). This fits into the base of the camera on the hand grip side behind a locked door. The battery takes approximately 3.5 hours for a full charge.

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