Although it is nowhere nears as svelte as the E-410 (which is, after all, the world's smallest digital SLR), the E-510 is still very compact with a slim body and excellent proportions. The biggest change over the E-410 is the inclusion of a sizeable - and very comfortable - grip, which makes for superb handling. Design-wise the E-510 has echoes of the E-500 it replaces, but the all-new body shape is, to my eyes, a significant step forward with modern styling and an excellent, logical control layout (which is essentially the same as the E-500). As we've seen with previous models the construction quality is excellent; rigid plastics over a metal body give you the impression this is a very solid camera, despite the fairly low weight.
Side by side
The E-510 is marginally lighter than the EOS 400D and the body itself is noticeably slimmer, which means there's a lot more room for your fingers as the grip sticks out a lot further. The E-510 is also considerably wider and a touch shorter, which further enhances handling and makes the EOS 400D feel awkward and cramped by comparison.
(W x H x D)
(inc. battery & card)
|Olympus E-410||130 x 91 x 53 mm (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)||435 g (1.0 lb)|
|Olympus E-500||130 x 95 x 66 mm (5.1 x 3.7 x 2.6 in)||479 g (1.1 lb)|
|Nikon D40||126 x 94 x 64 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in)||524 g (1.2 lb)|
|Olympus E-510||136 x 92 x 68 mm (5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in)||535g (1.25 lb)|
|Canon EOS 400D||127 x 94 x 65 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in)||556 g (1.2 lb)|
|Sony DSLR-A100||133 x 95 x 71 mm (5.2 x 3.7 x 2.8 in)||638 g (1.4 lb)|
|Pentax K100D||129 x 93 x 70 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.8 in)||660 g (1.5 lb)|
|Nikon D80||132 x 103 x 77 mm (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)||668 g (1.5 lb)|
In your hand
I personally loved the E-510's handling; Olympus has obviously done the seemingly unthinkable in modern camera design and actually designed a camera for a human being to hold and take pictures with. The superb grip makes it comfortable to use even for extended shooting sessions and it feels safe and balanced even in one hand. The important controls are easily accessible and the whole thing just feels 'right'. Kudos.
The E-510 has a now typical 2.5" 230,000 pixel LCD monitor which delivers excellent viewing angles but we found it to be perhaps not bright enough for 'arms length' live view outdoors. The screen is covered by a protective plastic window which unfortunately does not feature any anti-reflective coating.
The LCD monitor on the E-510 serves many purposes from status display to menus and control, playback and of course live view.
Control panel display
Because of its lack of a separate status LCD the E-510 provides two levels of information on the main LCD monitor ('control panel' displays). These are accessed simply by pressing the INFO button. The first mode displays brief information, the second more detailed. You can press the OK button to change settings as they appear on the display.
The E-510 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. To be fair however it is quite bright, perhaps a little better than a typical APS sensor-size camera viewfinder.
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.
The small viewfinder doesn't offer a very long eye relief - you need to be almost (though not quite) pushing your eyeball up to the glass to see the entire frame and the full information display - otherwise you'll find yourself having to move the camera slightly to see the shooting info. This is a particular problem for anyone who wears glasses.
In order to keep the size down the E-410 uses a smaller battery (with a corresponding reduction in capacity); the E-510 uses the more common BLM-1 (the same as the E-500, E-1, E-330 et al). The higher (1500 mAh) capacity means you get 25% more shots out of the E-510 than from the E-410, and you can comfortably expect to get well over 600 shots on a single charge (providing, of course, you don't use Live View). The battery fits into the base of the camera on the hand grip side behind a locked door. The battery takes approximately 5 hours for a full charge.