Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent resolution, almost as good as the best five megapixel we've seen
- Good metering, good tonal balance, more 'flat' than most prosumer digital cameras
- Neutral colour balance which won't "blow out" but may need a push to give it some zing
- Very fast and sharp, 4x lens (F2.0 - F2.4) - though some chromatic aberrations
- Fast auto focus and almost nonexistent shutter release lag
- Good shot-to-shot times (but only four frames)
- Soft touch shutter release button (better 'squeeze')
- Excellent selection of manual controls, lots of well thought out features (but no 'fluff')
- Combined LCD 'live view' as well as TTL viewfinder (still not as good as a D-SLR viewfinder)
- Superb build quality, excellent "all metal" case, tactile feel to controls
- Mechanically linked zoom control
- Focus-by-wire manual focus ring works better than most
- Flexible and re-programmable JPEG size / quality settings
- Good low light performance (thanks to new noise reduction feature)
- Tilt-out LCD
- Flash hot-shoe and synch terminal for studio work
- One-touch white balance
- Optional battery pack & portrait grip
- RAW file format
- Control over some internal processing algorithms (contrast, sharpening) - although not enough
- Most camera controls / settings on exterior case of camera
- USB connectivity
- Well positioned tripod mount
Conclusion - Cons
- Slow startup time
- Slow image flush times (very poor, for a five megapixel "professional" digital camera)
- Inability to change certain settings until buffer has been fully written
- LCD live view does not return until buffer has been fully written
- Very limiting four image buffer, no matter what image size / quality
- Slow image display and magnification
- Chromatic aberrations
- Barrel distortion at full wide angle
- Poor LCD 'live view' frame coverage
- No flexible program AE
- No depth of field preview
- Shadow noise / noise visible at ISO 80
- Limited range of ISO sensitivities (nothing above ISO 320)
- Still limited to maximum shutter speed of 1/640 sec for high quality images
- Unreliable low light focus
- Bayer pattern artifacts
- Histogram not available in record review (though can be seen in quick view)
- No control over image saturation, no colourspace selection option
- Not enough steps in sharpening or contrast control (compared to lower-end Olympus digital cameras)
- Setup menu is in an obscure place
- Flash colour cast
Here's my rating of the Olympus E-20: (5 megapixel prosumer)
|Detail||Rating (out of 10)|
|Lens / CCD combination||8.5|
|Ease of use||8|
|Value for money||7.5|
Overall the E-20 is a camera of hot and cold. From an image quality point of view it's very balanced, with good resolution and a neutral approach to tonal and colour balance (which would better suit a professional or semiprofessional photographer). There's the superbly built and designed body, studio flash capability (which works well) a mechanically linked zoom control and a vast array of manual controls.
However, on the other side there are just too many things which I found frustrating about the E-10 which simply haven't been addressed. Many of them I consider to be fairly straightforward fixes or changes which, for a camera aimed at professional photographers, are essential.
Take for instance one of the most frustrating issues when using the E-20; storage write times. The E-20's write speeds (SmartMedia or Compact Flash) are no better (and in some cases worse than) the Nikon Coolpix 995. The difference? The Coolpix 995 is a a sub-$900 prosumer camera which only needs to write 1 MB or sub-1 MB images, the E-20 is aimed at professionals with JPEG images (SHQ) which range between 3.5 and 2.5 MB.
Waiting 9, 11 or 15 seconds for these five megapixel images to be written to the storage card is no joke. Especially when you consider that the E-20 only has a 4 image buffer; that it does not allow you to change certain settings, enter the menu system, display an image or return the LCD to live view mode until it has finished writing the buffer contents. It's not clear if this problem is down to the speed of the E-20's "dual format" storage interface or the speed at which it's generating the final image as it's written out.
Obviously if you shoot with the viewfinder you'll only face the 4 image limit combined with write speed, if you were to shoot four SHQ 1/4 images in the space of 12 seconds you'll be waiting at least 40 seconds (after the last shot) before you can shoot another batch of four. Olympus really needed to give the E-20 a larger buffer and higher performance storage interface.
The E-20 is the kind of camera which some will love and some would not be able to live with. If you're comfortable with the limitations in the cons list above and feel the that at $1900 it is good value for money (or you're an E-10 user looking for more resolution) then the E-20 could be for you.
Unfortunately I feel that it's a pity Olympus haven't addressed some of the E-10's limitations or developed the camera beyond the E-10's capabilities (their sub $800 digital cameras have more control over internal processing algorithms!). They also appear to have ignored competition at both ends of the market; the five megapixel Sony DSC-F707 is almost half the price ($900 - $1000) of the E-20 ($1800 - $1900) and Canon's EOS-D30 can readily be found for just $500 more ($2400 - $2800) - albeit without a lens.
It all makes you wonder what Olympus are really working on and what's just around the corner... I really wanted to give the E-20 a higher rating, especially considering I was relatively impressed by the E-10, but the market has changed so much since then. My rating must reflect the current state of the market and the ability of competitive cameras.
(but expensive at the list price)
So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.
|Christine by JP Zanotti|
from Car wreck
|Fangorn Forest by cand1d|
|Yosemite Falls with Moonbow by Jonathan Shapiro|
from Best Landscape of the Week 4
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony A9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
The Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, but now users will be able to build their own. Read more
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more
The usually Apple-exclusive MacPhun software developer has announced that it will introduce PC versions of two of its most popular applications. Both Aurora HDR and Luminar should be available for the Windows operating system by the autumn of this year. Read more
Sony's newest G Master telephoto zoom, announced alongside the a9, is the first of the company's FE lenses to reach 400mm natively. We had one in California and photographed horses, portraits, and landscapes - check out how it did. Read more
Garmin has entered the 360-camera market with the VIRB, which captures 5.7K video at 30p as well as 15MP stills. Read more
German media reports that the founders of the company behind the Panono 360-degree ball camera have filed for bankruptcy at a court in Berlin. Read more
With a claimed 800 new custom parts, Microsoft's updated Surface Pro comes with the latest Kaby Lake processors, better battery life, a new hinge, plus the Surface Pen is updated as well. Read more
DW Photo is attempting to resurrect the Hy6 medium format camera, though the legal tangles of its development may stop it being branded Rolleiflex.
The Kodak EKTRA, the company's 'camera first' smartphone, is now available to purchase in the United States. Read more
Apple and Nokia have settled their years-old patent dispute. Apple will make an undisclosed payment to Nokia and sign a licensing agreement related to digital health products with the Finnish company.
David Gibson, one of Britain's best known street shooters, shares all.
Photographers from the SKYGLOW project travelled 150k miles and took 3 million photos in increasingly rare locations: those without light pollution.
The world's fastest 200mm was produced for 16 years. In that time, only 8000 were made.