Flash Performance

According to the specifications the E-20 has a very powerful onboard flash, with a rated range of 0.6 - 8.9 m (2.0 - 29.2 ft) at wide angle and 0.5 - 7.4 m (1.6 - 24.3 ft) at telephoto it's as powerful as many off-camera flash units. Our tests seemed to back up some of this, although I feel the figures quoted by Olympus are a little hopeful. I also found that at distance or with the lens set to wide angle the flash produced a slightly uneven coverage (as you can see below).

Skin tone test: Good exposure, a little 'cool' but I wouldn't call it colour cast. Surprisingly the E-20's powerful flash didn't cover our white wall test, there's a noticeable 'spike' of brightness near the center of the frame. Color patch test: Good exposure, a little contrasty but this could be adjusted with some careful settings adjustment. Good colour, no cast.

Studio Flash

Realizing that quite a few E-10 users have hooked up their camera to studio flash systems I decided to fire off a few shots with the E-20. Setup was extremely ordinary, an Elinchrom Style 300S with a 70cm softbox suspended over a 'curved sheet' of card. Sync cable connected to the E-20, manual exposure of 1/100 sec, F8.0. A little fine tuning of the head power output and the results are very pleasing (clearly better still with a more comprehensive setup, this was just a quick test). White balance was almost spot on, a little warm but nothing to worry about.

Note: I would normal use F11 or greater but at F11 resolution drops due to diffraction.

Night exposures / Noise reduction

In manual exposure mode the E-20 has some of the longest exposure times (without using Bulb mode) of any digital camera. You can select exposures of up to 60 seconds, this in combination with dark frame subtraction noise reduction (enabled through the record menu) can produce some very nice night exposures.

ISO 80, 15 sec, F4.0 (Noise reduction disabled)
ISO 80, 15 sec, F4.0 (Noise reduction enabled)
ISO 80, 30 sec, F5.6 (Noise reduction enabled)
ISO 80, 60 sec, F6.3 (Noise reduction enabled)

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

Unsurprisingly (as it's the same lens) the E-20 performed identically, approximately 1.2% barrel distortion at wide angel (a little more than the 'norm') and zero pincushion distortion at full telephoto.

Barrel Distortion, 1.2% @ wide angle Pincushion Distortion, 0% @ telephoto

Purple Fringing (Chromatic Aberrations)

In strong light the E-20 did have a tendency to exhibit chromatic aberrations, this does appear to be more so than the E-10.

Chromatic aberrations in "every day" shots
Our now standard chromatic aberration test shot

Overall Image Quality / Specific Issues

There were no nasty surprises with the E-20, it is after all a 'matured' E-10 with a new high resolution sensor. One notable improvement is the 'relative resolution', that is the resolution the camera produces versus the resolution we would expect for that pixel count. To me the E-10 was a slightly disappointing four megapixel, later four megapixel digital cameras showed that it wasn't getting all it could from the pixel count.

The E-20 is a different beast, as you'll see in later pages it has very good resolution and is definitely 'in the zone' of what we've come to expect from a consumer grade five megapixel digital camera. In normal Olympus style colour is subdued but accurate, this means you won't loose colour detail due to over-saturation but you may like to 'boost' saturation in certain images to give them a little more zing.

The E-20's only major image quality disappointment are noise levels, for a 'professional' digital camera it's ISO 80 exhibits more noise than we'd hope or come to expect, especially when comparing its images to other prosumer level five megapixel digital cameras. I see no reason why Olympus couldn't achieve the smooth and relatively noise free images we've seen of cheaper five megapixel digitals.

Thanks to Olympus's "pixel mapping" I observed no dead pixels on the E-20 I had for review, we have seen dead pixels on other five and four megapixel digital cameras which don't employ an active pixel mapping feature.

Bayer pattern artifacts

One thing I noticed on fine detail diagonals were dotted 'Bayer pattern artifacts' (as seen in the 200% crops below). These broken line patterns are an 'error' induced by the decoding of the red, green, blue pixel Bayer layout of the original CCD colour filter array. While not a huge problem in themselves the existence of this artifact should be noted.

Shadow noise

As you will already have seen the E-20 does suffer from some visible noise, even at ISO 80. Below are a couple of 100% crops from a 'normal' ISO 80 daylight image which should give you an impression of the noise visible in shadow areas.