The E-620's lineage is immediately apparent - its design being entirely consistent with an attempt to build something half-way between the E-4X0 and E-5X0, with a dash of E-30 added around the LCD. Although a few buttons have been moved around and the E-620 has a tilting screen (something the E-420 and E-520 have to do without) the basic control layout is pretty much in line with with previous Olympus DSLRs. The grip is slightly larger than the E-420's but not as pronounced as that on the E-520, and the camera has grown a little in height to accommodate the new viewfinder.
The handling was something we liked about the E-420 and E-520 and the newcomer does nothing to spoil this. It also retains what is probably the most convincing build-quality in its class, thanks to an excellent choice of materials - it feels rugged and well-made.
Side by side
Below you can see the E-620 between its siblings the E-520 and the new E-30. It's marginally smaller and almost 100g lighter than the (already fairly compact) E-520, which makes it one of the smallest and lightest DSLRs currently on the market.
(W x H x D)
(inc. battery & card)
|Olympus E-620||130 x 94 x 60 mm (5.1 x 3.7 x 2.4 in)||521 g (1.1 lb)|
|Olympus E-30||142 x 105 x 80 mm (5.6 x 4.2 x 3.2 in)||768 g (1.7 lb)|
|Olympus E-520||136 x 92 x 68 mm (5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in)||552 g (1.2 lb)|
|Olympus E-420||130 x 91 x 53 mm (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)||426 g (0.9 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)||524 g (1.2 lb)|
In your hand
Despite its small size the E-620 sits very nicely in the hand, and forms a well-balanced package with the equally small 14-42mm kit lens. The grip is marginally larger than the E-420's but still unusually small for a DSLR. 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-620 with kit lens is light enough to be held this way, indeed it is actually quite comfortable.
|Lights On||Lights Off|
The E-620 sports a new 2.7" HyperCrystal III TFT LCD monitor with 230,000 pixels, which is transmissive to aid viewing in bright light. In addition many of the buttons are illuminated to allow easier working in low-light situations.
One of the criticisms of many recent digital SLR offerings has been that the usefulness of Live View is somewhat compromised by the lack of an articulated screen. Like its bigger brothers the E-3 and the E-30, the E-620 has a versatile screen that swings out through 180° and swivels through a full 270°, meaning you can view it from pretty much any angle you wish. The screen can be stored 'face in' to the body when not needed.
Often live view still offers a less than perfect alternative to the good old optical viewfinder (thanks to the shutter delay and drain on battery life), but in certain shooting situations the powerful combination of live preview and a multi-angle screen should not be underestimated.
|The 'Super Control Panel' gives direct access to all the key functions of the camera, right down to white balance fine tuning in a consistent and easy to use manner. Once you're familiar with the camera, you'll learn to check all your settings at a glance, with the ability to change any of them in a couple of button presses without having to use the main menu.|
As mentioned above the viewfinder is a little smaller than the E-30 (about the same size as the smallest current APS-C camera, the Sony Alpha 380) but it is an improvement over the ones fitted to the E-420 and 520. It's slightly larger and has moved the information panel underneath the main view, rather than off to the right. Users wearing glasses may still have to peer down to see the info strip but it's a great improvement over the existing Olympus entry-level models.
One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in the usability of an SLR - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving process it is.
Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'. Hence the E-620's quoted figure of 0.96x magnification ends up as 0.48x when compared to a full-frame, 24x36mm sensor camera.
The diagram below shows the relative size of the viewfinders of the E-620, Nikon D5000 and Canon EOS 500D, alongside, for reference, the EOS-1Ds Mark III (currently the biggest viewfinder on the DSLR market).
|Although the spec-sheet figure of 0.96x magnification may sound impressive, the reality is a slightly less exciting. By the time you've taken the sensor size and aspect ratio into account, you're left with a rather small view on the wolrd.|
Most cameras at this level crop the frame slightly when you look through the viewfinder - in other words you get slightly more in the final picture than you see through the viewfinder. In common with most of its competitors the E-620 only shows 95% (vertically and horizontally) of the frame.
|Olympus E-620: 95% viewfinder.|
As well as having a new and sophisticated autofocus system, the E-620 has borrowed the E-30's highly adjustable AF setup. It's possible to fine-tune every AF point individually, with separate settings for the wide-angle and telephoto ends if it's a zoom lens. And, not only can different values be specified for every lens you own (by serial number, so you can compensate for differing behavior between two copies of the same lens), you can even set up multiple presets, just in case your lens behaves differently at different focusing distances. (The screen grab blow is taken from the E-30.)
However, the process just for inputting the corrections requires an awful lot of button presses, and it's not at all clear how you're supposed to collect the data to allow you to choose the correct settings except through trial-and-error. Clearly it's no bad thing to offer this level of control but, if it is necessary, it would appear to make more sense for this to be a feature controlled via a computer, rather than via a four-way controller. It would also be nice to be able to measure the required offset values directly, perhaps by correcting the distance chosen by the autofocus using magnified manual focus in live view mode.