Olympus E10 Review
Olympus is making public the new flagship among Olympus digital cameras, revealing all the technical details of the camera that will knock the C-2500L from first place.
- professional “look and feel”
- tilting monitor
- optimum system flash control
- Autofocus not continuous
- Autofocus with only one measuring field
With a resolution of 4.0 megapixels (usable maximum resolution of 2,240 x 1,680 pixels), a fully-fledged reflex viewfinder and, last but not least, a price somewhere below DM 5,000, the new Olympus flagship is clearly aimed at semi-professional and professional customers. Actually, the only thing missing is the possibility to use interchangeable lenses to make the leap into the full professional class. Olympus, however, argues that a sophisticated zoom lens with 14 multi-coated lens elements is the best possible match for the high-resolution CCD sensor and is therefore superior to conventional interchangeable lenses from the 35mm or APS world. The fixed 4x zoom lens (35-140/F2.0-2.4 corresponding to 35 mm) has a standard 62 mm filter thread, allowing the addition of various new converters (0.8x wide angle; 1.45x and 3x tele-converter; macro attachment) developed by Olympus for the E-10. The optical reflex viewfinder is equipped with an LCD display that allows the photographer to access important exposure functions at any time. Apparently, the E-10 is also equipped with a semi-transparent or at least swivel-mounted mirror, as the 1.8″ LCD monitor that can be swivelled up and down should also be able to be used to select the image detail and focus, which is especially important when shooting from unfavorable positions (squatting or over the heads of a crowd).
Exposure is measured by the Olympus-specific ESP multi-field metering or, alternatively, by a center-weighted integral metering or spot metering. As befits a semi-professional camera, the E-10 has not only program exposure, but also semi-automatic exposure programs (aperture and shutter speed control) and manual exposure control (shutter speeds 8 to 1/640 seconds including bulb long mode; apertures F2.0 to F11 depending on zoom position). Further possibilities to influence the exposure are available in the form of manual exposure corrections (+/- 3 f-stops in one-third steps) and automatic exposure series (deviation 1/3, 2/3 or 1 f-stop; 3 or 5 pictures). Equally flexible is the adjustment of white balance (automatic, 3000, 3700, 4000, 4500, 5500, 6500 and 7500 Kelvin as well as manual “one touch” measurement), compression level (TIFF uncompressed, JPEG or RAW with Photoshop plug-in) and sharpness (hybrid autofocus with a working range of 60 cm to infinity; macro mode 20 to 60 cm; manual focusing via focusing ring on the camera lens). The light sensitivity can be set in several steps (automatic; ISO 50, 100 and 200), but leaves the desire for a maximum sensitivity of ISO 400.
In flash mode the Olympus E-10 leaves nothing to be desired: The camera not only has a built-in flash with all possible functions (low-light and backlight auto, red-eye reduction, manual fill flash, off, long-term synchronization to the 1st and 2nd shutter curtain), but also a TTL hot shoe and connector for the external Olympus system flash FL-40 and an X sync connector. There is a self-timer with 12 seconds advance and a connection for an electric cable remote release for night shots and tripod use. When shooting moving images, the E-10 impresses with a continuous shooting speed of 3 frames per second for up to 4 consecutive images. As with the C-2500L, images are stored either on SmartMedia memory cards (up to 64 MByte; a 16 MByte card is supplied) or on CompactFlash memory cards (Type I and II; Olympus does not recommend the use of IBM microdrives). The necessary electrical energy comes either from 4 standard AA cells (alkaline, lithium, NiMH or NiCd cells) or from 2 CR-V3 lithium cells; with the optional battery pack, even the highest capacity can be drawn from a state-of-the-art Olympus lithium polymer battery. That’s enough to take a lot of pictures and then view them on the pivoting LCD colour screen. In order to get the megabyte-heavy pictures fast enough to your home hard drive, the E-10 is equipped with a USB interface; via the PAL video output, the pictures can also be shown on a TV.
The massive Olympus E-10, which weighs over 1 kg due to its sturdy die-cast aluminium housing, complements the Olympus digital product family at a reasonable price, while the previous Olympus digital flagship C-2500L continues to represent higher prices.
ith the C-2500L, Olympus had already taken a step in the direction of semi-professionalism in 1999. In addition to the SLR technology, the C-2500L already had two memory card slots for SmartMedia and CompactFlash as well as a real hot shoe with TTL support. Less than a year later – which seems like half an eternity in the field of digital photography – Olympus took it a step further and presented the Camedia E-10 shortly before Photokina 2000, although the concept has remained more or less the same: The Olympus Camedia E-10 is again an “all-in-one” digital camera with an SLR viewfinder. An SLR viewfinder is not necessarily a criterion for a semi-professional digital camera, but alternative solutions (such as the video viewfinder of the little sister C-2100 Ultra Zoom) are not yet technically mature enough to really stand up to an SLR viewfinder.
The E-10 rather proves its suitability as a semi-professional or even professional digital camera by its almost perfect handling and its rich equipment with a range of functions that does without any “gimmicks” and only offers the functions really needed by a professional photographer. In this practical test, we will look into the question of what the E-10 can do more than its direct competitors from the consumer class and what the E-10 – apart from the interchangeable lens – might be missing to make the leap into the absolute professional class.
Ergonomics and Workmanship
Completely nobly kept in black and with a rather futuristic, asymmetrical design, the E-10 neither resembles a digital compact camera nor the image we usually have from a single-lens reflex camera. At the front – firmly attached – the lens protrudes from the camera body. The actual camera housing is a solid monoblock construction with a hinged mini flash, real flash shoe, optical SLR viewfinder with dioptre compensation, movable 1.8″ LCD colour screen, additional LC display on the top, SLR camera-typical operating elements and an ergonomically designed handle. Function buttons are scattered throughout the camera body, but each button has a specific function and the buttons are almost perfectly placed both logically and ergonomically. The E-10 has been designed so that practically every button is within fingertip reach and can be operated instinctively. The E-10 is therefore almost a masterpiece of ergonomics. You can see that the Olympus engineers built the camera practically around the human hand.
With its rugged all-metal chassis and generous dimensions, the E-10 is neither small and compact nor light. On our scale, it brings a proud weight of 1,165 grams ready for use, but its ergonomic shape makes you forget the high weight to some extent, and finally, it provides good stability for freehand shots. The tripod thread is, as it should be for a camera of this price range, also made of metal. The battery compartment at the bottom is easily accessible even when the tripod quick-release plate is attached and is equipped with a completely removable battery basket with a quick release fastener. The two memory card slots (SmartMedia and CompactFlash) as well as the connector panel (USB interface, AV output) are located on the left and right sides of the camera so that they do not interfere with each other, and each has a sturdy protective cover. The 1.8″ TFT colour screen with 118,000 pixels of the E-10 can be swivelled 20 degrees downwards and 90 degrees upwards and for the first time in Olympus SLR digital cameras displays a live image even before taking the picture. The quality (noise, judder, sharpness) of the preview images on the monitor is a little behind that of other Olympus camera models; the new Canon PowerShot G1, for example, makes a much better impression. The optical reflex viewfinder is equipped with a dioptric regulator, an integrated eyepiece shutter and a high-eyepoint eyepiece (eyepiece distance: 11.1 mm) – particularly practical for spectacle wearers – and covers about 95% of the actual image field. In order to make the LCD monitor usable as a viewfinder in parallel, the Olympus E-10 uses a prism through which the image captured by the lens is simultaneously distributed to the optical viewfinder and the CCD sensor (and above it to the LCD monitor). This darkens the viewfinder image a little, but is still pleasantly legible.
The camera comes with three manuals in 4 languages (German, English, French, Spanish): A commissioning manual and a short manual in printed form as well as a detailed online documentation on CD-ROM. The commissioning instructions consist of one larger folded sheet of paper for each language. All operating elements and the menu displays are shown on it. It also explains the most important steps required to operate the camera.
The short manual is available as DIN-A5 booklet and contains the instructions for all four languages in one common manual. On 26 pages per language it contains the most important information in short form: A complete anatomy (unfortunately without reference to the page with the further description) names all camera parts as well as the possible symbols on the LCD displays. It also describes all functions and settings required for installation and initial recordings. The table of contents lists only the six main chapters and no subchapters, there is even no index. Thus, a targeted search for specific functions is difficult or even impossible.
Resolution and white balance
With a resolution of around 4 megapixels (usable maximum resolution: 2,240 x 1,680 pixels), the Olympus Camedia E-10 is the first and currently only digital camera that I find cheap. The CD-ROM contains Adobe Acrobat Reader (in four languages) and detailed operating instructions in PDF format. The English language version has 204 pages, on which all camera functions are described in detail and understandably, supplemented by many illustrations. A glossary is also available. As one of the first Olympus camera manuals we tested, this documentation contains both a keyword index and a table of contents, but they do not contain hyperlinks to jump directly to a chapter. The possibility of using colour or highlighting in the electronic version has also been abandoned and the pages are in a portrait format that is not very suitable for the screen. So the PDF manual is actually a document intended for printing, which was pressed on CD instead. Printing on your own printer is basically possible. Due to the small DIN A6 format, the manual cannot be printed in full size, so that either a lot of cutting work follows or one has to accept 204 pages, only a quarter of which are filled. Despite the index in the CD-ROM version and good content, this Olympus documentation also fails smoothly in our test.
Menu navigation, camera settings
The most important camera settings are always made with a function button and the dial on the top of the camera. These include the flash mode, image quality, white balance, metering mode, drive mode, focus area (normal/macro), and exposure compensation. By holding down the corresponding knob and turning the dial at the same time, you can call up the different settings for each function. The change can be seen on the LC display on the top of the camera. All settings can be made with one hand. For this purpose, the zoom wheel (for the magnifying glass function during image playback) can be re-purposed so that even left-handed people can operate the flash and quality settings with one hand without finger acrobatics. All settings can be made even in total darkness: The LCD display on the top of the camera can be illuminated at the touch of a button, which is especially useful for night-time shooting. Other buttons and switches on the E-10 include an AEL memory, focus switch (auto focus/manual), flash mode, memory card switch (from SmartMedia to CompactFlash), camera reset (by pressing the flash and quality button simultaneously), one-push white balance, image erase, image lock, and image information display.
The LCD colour screen can also be switched on and off with a special button. All other functions that are not needed so often are controlled via the menu system of the E-10. Activated at the touch of a button, it is navigated using four cursor keys (right, left, up, down). The 3-sided menu contains functions for managing the memory card and setting the camera sensitivity, bracketing, flash compensation, focus and contrast, image quality (resolution, file format/compression factor), interval function, audio signals and shutter sounds, live image, and auto-power-off. When the camera is in playback mode rather than shooting mode, the menu allows you to start automatic sequential image playback (slide show), copy the contents from one memory card to another, manage the memory card, and adjust the brightness of the color LCD screen. There is no choice of menu language, nor is it necessary, as all functions are identified by relatively clearly understandable pictograms. The main switch (On/Off) of the E-10 is connected to a program or operating mode dial. All in all, the E-10 is designed for a minimum training period and an intuitive and quick adjustment of the camera functions.
Although the Camedia E-10 belongs rather in the league of professional SLR digital cameras with interchangeable lenses in terms of price, equipment and because of the SLR viewfinder, it has a fixed zoom lens. This corresponds in focal length and speed to a 35-140 mm/F2-2.4 35 mm lens. The focal length is adjusted manually (as with a 35 mm interchangeable lens) using a well-dimensioned, easy-grip, rotating zoom ring. The focal length adjustment is very smooth and the image detail can be selected very precisely and quickly. The only thing one could accuse Olympus of is labeling the lens exclusively with the actual focal lengths instead of the focal lengths converted to 35mm ratios. Who knows offhand that the position 13 mm corresponds to a KB focal length of about 50 mm? While the wide-angle position still has to struggle with some distortion (very slightly barrel-shaped), no visible distortion is visible at the telephoto position. Beyond the entire focal length range, the image sharpness is high in the center and at the edges of the image; other image errors, such as chromatic aberration and vignetting, are also absent.
The lens is equipped with a 62 mm filter thread, so that optical accessories (filters, close-up lenses and converters) from Olympus as well as from other manufacturers can be screwed on without any problems. Especially for the Camedia E-10, Olympus offers a 0.8x wide-angle converter (WCON-08B) as well as two teleconverters, the TCON-14B (1.45x) and the TCON-300S (3x). The latter extends the E-10 by no less than 27 cm and is so voluminous that it is supplied with a special holding rail (TCON-SA1). If you want to get more attention with this combination or use the camera-converter-combination with the power grip (B-HLD10) attached, you will find as an optional accessory the holding rail with a pistol grip TCON-SA2, which reminds a bit of the old Novoflex quick focus telephoto lenses for manual KB-SLR cameras. Finally, there is a close-up lens (MCON-35), which reduces the close-up limit to 12 cm.
The converters WCON-08B and TCON-14B tested by us are both expensive with about 600 and 750 DM respectively – compared to converters of other manufacturers – but the quality justifies the price. The distortion of the lens is amplified so little by the attachment of the converters that it is difficult to detect any difference at all. The image sharpness is very high over the entire image area and color fringes or similar effects do not occur with the Olympus converters either. But the teleconverter TCON-14B is practically only usable with the maximum focal length of the E10 lens, so when you mount the converter, you immediately jump from 140 to 200 mm focal length. If one zooms back a little, vignetting (shadowing in the corners of the image) quickly occurs.
Exposure metering and control
As a camera with professional demands, the E-10 does not deal with motif programmes. Thus, on the main dial, one finds only the exposure programs that are really needed. These are a program automatic, a time and aperture automatic and a manual exposure control. Depending on the exposure program and focal length, the user can set exposure times from 1/640 to 8 seconds (in 38 steps), a long exposure setting (bulb) and 16 aperture settings from F2 to F11. In manual mode, the upper control dial is used to control exposure and the rear control dial is used to control apertures (magnifying glass function in playback mode). This allows you to manually adjust the exposure with a single hand. The exposure values are displayed in the viewfinder as well as on the upper LCD and can also be displayed on the LCD colour screen at the touch of a button. Also displayed in manual mode is the difference between the set exposure and the exposure determined by the camera automatic. By the way, the program automatic does not have a shift function, with which it would be possible to influence the calculated time/aperture combination in favour of a shorter exposure time or a larger (or smaller) depth of field. This is only possible by means of automatic time or aperture control.
To the left of the viewfinder is the button for selecting the metering mode. Three methods are available to the user: ESP multi-field measurement, center-weighted integral measurement and spot measurement. The spot metering area is indicated in the viewfinder by a circle in the center of the viewfinder and covers 1.2% of the entire viewfinder field. The ESP multi-field metering is hard to fool: even under extreme lighting conditions, the automatic system delivers correctly exposed images – provided the main subject is in the centre of the picture where the focus is set. This is because the ESP measurement appears to be coupled with the AF measurement field. In other words, it exposes correctly where the focus is set. An exposure-compensation button allows fine correction (+/- 3 f-stops in one-third increments) of the exposure, while a menu function allows auto bracketing (3 images each with deviations of 1/3, 2/3, or whole f-stops). A button also controls the white balance functions. Besides the automatic white balance, the color temperature (between 3,000 and 7,500 Kelvin in 7 steps) can be preselected or measured manually at the push of a button (One-Push). If you can’t do much with the numerical data displayed on the upper LC display alone, you should switch on the LCD colour monitor. There, in addition to the numerical information in Kelvin, a corresponding symbol is also displayed (twice incandescent lamp, twice fluorescent lamp, sun, cloud, house with snowdrift).
For brightening up or when an additional external flash is not at hand, the integrated mini flash often proves to be a practical helper. On a camera with professional requirements, it is often not desired that the flash pops out automatically when needed (backlight, low light). So the flash built into the E-10 must also be released at the touch of a button. When the flash is raised, it works either automatically, with upstream red-eye reduction (by flash salvo) or with long-time synchronization (either on the 1st or 2nd shutter curtain). In the camera menu you can even reduce or increase the flash output (flash exposure correction by +/- 2 f-stops in one-third steps). To turn the flash off, fold it back in. Although the mini-flash does not have a motorized reflector, it will delight E-10 owners with an exceptionally high guide number for built-in flashes. In our testing, this does not reach the guide number of almost 18 given by the manufacturer, but with a measured guide number of approximately 14, it is still the most powerful mini flash we have ever come across in a digital camera. Thus flash ranges of up to 6 meters are possible. Flash light distribution and flash exposure (the latter thanks to “true” TTL flash metering) are almost perfect and the color temperature of the flash is completely neutral. Red-eye – even without the reduction function switched on – is rather rare thanks to the high flash position.
The built-in flash can even be fired together with an external flash. In addition to a hot shoe with center contact and Olympus-specific TTL contacts (for use with the Olympus FL-40 system flash unit), the E-10 has an additional PC plug for connecting older automatic flash units or studio flash systems. In conjunction with the FL-40 system flash unit, flash exposure is fully automatic The FL-40 has a guide number of 33 as measured by us and can thus achieve a maximum flash range of 16.5 meters in combination with the E-10. This should be enough for most cases; if you need more flash power, you can fall back on a rod flash, e.g. from Metz. However, as Metz does not currently offer SCA adapters suitable for Olympus digital cameras, the flash exposure must then be carried out via the auto-exposure of the flash (computer flash). The communication between the camera and the FL-40 flash works perfectly, all functions – except the AF auxiliary light (since the E-10 has its own AF auxiliary illuminator) – are supported: Motorised reflector zoom and flash exposure control work in perfect harmony with the camera – so mis-exposed flash images are virtually impossible. The reflector of the FL-40 also zooms in on indirect operation. This is a bit unusual, because the reflector position does not play such a decisive role with indirect flash and could remain locked in a fixed position. The fact that the FL-40 automatically switches to a kind of “snooze mode” after a certain period of time, even when switched on, is pleasant and saves the battery. However, as soon as the camera’s shutter release button is pressed, the flash is immediately awakened from its Sleeping Beauty sleep.
The E-10 works with a dual or hybrid autofocus system of a very special kind. The working scheme of this hybrid system is already quite sophisticated: An infrared measuring beam (active autofocus system) does the “preliminary work” so to speak, while a passive autofocus system (contrast comparison) does the “fine work”. While in many autofocus cameras, the AF measuring beam or the AF auxiliary light shines white-grey (e.g. Canon Powershot G1 or Nikon Coolpix 990) or reddish (e.g. Olympus Camedia C-2100 Ultra Zoom), the E-10 has a real infrared measuring beam. This is invisible to the human eye and therefore very discreet. The cooperation of active and passive autofocus allows fast and precise focusing; the symbiosis is almost perfect. “Almost” because the AF area covers only a small rectangle in the center of the image (about 1% of the image area). With a digital camera in this price range, the wish for a multi-field autofocus arises, so that one can also capture sharply scenes that are located outside the center of the picture without moving the camera. After all, multi-field autofocus systems are already a matter of course in 35 mm SLR cameras (even of the 600 DM class) and even a few digital cameras have several AF measuring fields (e.g. the Nikon Coolpix 990) or at least a wider AF measuring field (e.g. HP PhotoSmart 912/Pentax EI-2000). Nevertheless, the AF system of the E-10 is quite fast (at least for a digital camera; average about 0.7 seconds), quiet and very precise. Thanks to hybrid AF, the E-10 also has no problems finding sharpness in low light or with insufficient subject contrast.
The working range of the autofocus is between 60 cm and infinity; when macro mode is on, the close-up limit is reduced to 20 cm. The fact that pressing the macro button alone is not enough for this, but that the dial must also be turned, even though there is only “on” and “off”, is a bit cumbersome, but at least consistent in terms of operation. Thanks to the reflex viewfinder, the sharpness can be judged quite precisely. The activation of the autofocus also takes some getting used to: The shutter release button is pressed halfway as usual to start focusing, but there is no pressure point. Those who press the shutter release too gently will not get an autofocus, those who press too hard will release at the same time. It takes some time until you get the right feeling, from when the camera focuses and from when it is released. It’s also a pity that the E-10 doesn’t offer an autofocus with focus tracking (continuous AF) – this is particularly unpleasant when it comes to moving subjects. A toggle switch on the left side of the camera allows switching from autofocus to manual focusing. In this case, the focus is motorized by turning the handy and well-dimensioned focusing ring at the front of the lens. There is no focus aid (direction arrows, focus indicator, or audible signal) when using manual focus, so you must rely on the visual impression of focus in the viewfinder or press the info button to display a distance scale on the LCD screen (if you already know the shooting distance). In addition, sharp edges on the LCD monitor will be greatly oversharpened. Although this exaggerated display on the LCD monitor does not (fortunately) correspond to the subsequent image result, it does allow a good assessment of the focus position after a short period of familiarization with both manual and automatic focusing.
Resolution and white balance
With a resolution of around 4 megapixels (usable maximum resolution: 2,240 x 1,680 pixels), the Olympus Camedia E-10 is the first and currently only digital camera under DM 5,000 with such a high resolution. Alternatively, the user can choose from common resolutions of 1,600 x 1,200, 1,280 x 960, 1,024 x 768 and 640 x 480 pixels. Olympus advertises that the 2/3″ CCD image converter is firmly attached to the aluminium chassis of the E-10, so that the latter acts as a heat sink. The result should be a significantly lower noise behaviour of the CCD sensor. It is of course difficult to say how much this will bring in practice. However, it is clear that under normal shooting conditions (room temperature), noise is visible in the image even at the lowest sensitivity (ISO 80). Since there is currently no other 4 megapixel camera on the market for comparison, it is difficult to make a judgement on this. Otherwise, the image quality is of the highest quality: The colors are neutrally balanced – without any noticeable color cast and with natural color saturation. The sharpness and contrast of the images can be adjusted in three levels in the camera menu. If you want to keep the images in “raw” condition without any processing by the camera software, you can activate the RAW mode of the E-10 in the camera menu. With an appropriate Photoshop plugin, the original image data can be processed on the computer in the same way as the CCD sensor of the E-10 reads them, without the images having been optimized in the camera beforehand.
The E-10’s automatic white balance produces color-neutral images in daylight and slightly warm images in artificial light (incandescent or fluorescent). Those who know the colour temperature of the light source or own a colour temperature measuring device (as for example the 2.600 DM expensive Minolta Color-Meter III-F) can manually select the colour temperature (from 3.000 up to 7.500 Kelvin in 7 steps) and then get colour-correct images. It is much easier and cheaper to use the one-push white balance of the E-10, and if a white or neutral gray area has been adjusted, the E-10 delivers absolutely color-neutral images.
Like the Camedia C-2500L, the Camedia E-10 has two memory card slots: one for SmartMedia removable memory cards (up to 128 MByte) and one for CompactFlash cards of type I and II. If both shafts are equipped, you can switch between both cards at the push of a button. Despite Type II compatibility, Olympus advises against the use of IBM Microdrive miniature hard drives. These are supposed to generate too much heat and thus ruin the efforts to cool the CCD via the housing – increased image noise would be the result. However, it is in principle possible to use the Microdrive in the E-10, although a digitalkamera.de reader reported crashes of the E-10 when switching on or while saving in recording mode when using a 1-GByte Microdrive. However, the method of using a SmartMedia card while taking pictures and using an IBM Microdrive as mass storage to unload the SmartMedia card works well. In playback mode, the E-10 allows the contents of the memory card to be copied from one type of card to another, either as individual images or the entire contents of the card at once.
The E-10 saves your pictures in the highest resolution as an unprocessed RAW file (CCD raw data; file size 7.5 MByte), as an uncompressed standard TIFF file (file size 11.3 MByte) or also three-step JPEG compressed. The different compression levels are indicated by the compression factor (1:2.7 / 1:4 / 1:8). However, the effective compression factor is 1:4, 1:6.5 and 1:14. To save a RAW image, the E-10 needs about 12 seconds, a TIFF image about 28 seconds and a JPEG image about 5 to 8 seconds (depending on the compression level). All specifications refer to the full 4 megapixel resolution.
In the standard version, the E-10 has a removable battery basket that is provided with a quick-release lock and in which there is space for either 4 AA-size AA batteries or 2 CR-V3 disposable lithium batteries. This is practical, as you can keep the battery basket in your coat pocket (directly next to your body), for example, during winter time, or you can change the batteries in seconds by purchasing an additional battery basket (also available separately for about 60 DM under the product name B-HLD1) with additional batteries already inserted. But this is not necessary too often: With one set of NiMH high performance batteries (1.600 mAh) the E-10 should be able to take about 200 pictures with the E-10 according to Olympus, which in practice does not even seem to be overly optimistic. If you use the LCD colour screen and internal flash sparingly, you should definitely achieve about 100 to 150 pictures. The battery indicator of the E-10 works quite reliably, at least we couldn’t see any discrepancies with batteries in the practical test (e.g. the symbol for a half-empty battery lights up too late).
For expensive money (about 1.800 DM) you can buy the optional Power-Grip B-30LPS including Lithium-Polymer Battery B-10LPB (costs about 800 DM each!) and Charging Station B-20LPC. In addition to an even better grip and an even more professional look as well as an additional trigger for portrait shots, the power grip or lithium polymer battery with its 4,200 mAh gives the E-10 a huge image yield. When the camera is switched on, the LC display even shows the remaining capacity in percent. The lithium polymer technology is new and promising, but – as you can see – it is still very expensive at the moment. The E-10 has an additional 6.5 V mains input for stationary power supply.
The E-10 needs just under 4.7 seconds from switching on to the operational state. This would be a normal value for a consumer digital camera, but a professional expects to be ready for operation as soon as possible after switching on. The fact that it is faster is proven by digital cameras like the Nikon D1, the Fujifilm FinePix S1 Pro or the Kodak DCS camera series, whose switch-on times are under one second (but these cameras are in a completely different price range). Even the – in terms of price – next higher competitor of the E-10, the Canon EOS D30 takes only half as long to start.
The LCD colour screen must be switched on at the touch of a button and is active within 1.6 seconds. The shutter-release delay is less than 0.3 seconds; together with an average focusing time of 0.7 seconds (see focusing section), this gives a total shutter-release delay that rarely exceeds one second, even with difficult-to-focus subjects. After this time, the shutter-release button is released immediately as the images are placed directly into the buffer memory and the writing process to the memory card runs in the background. The buffer memory with 32 MByte is sufficient for four images and the memory allocation is indicated accordingly by four bars on the LC display.
In continuous shooting mode, the E-10 can shoot a series of up to four frames at full resolution at a speed of up to three frames per second. This also works in TIFF mode. Of course you have to wait all the longer until the buffer memory is free again. Some patience is also required in playback mode. Due to the large data volume of 4-megapixel image files, loading from the memory card and then decompressing and displaying on the LCD monitor takes about four seconds per JPEG image. Therefore, in order to control a specific image on the memory card, the reduced display modes (four or nine images simultaneously on the monitor) should be used, which are displayed faster.
Equipment And Features
Special functions of the E-10 are rather spartanly designed: The camera is obviously supposed to limit itself to the most essential thing; namely taking pictures and not impress the user with countless “gimmicks”. For this reason, the only special functions available are auto bracketing (three images each), flash exposure correction, interval timer, setting of the camera’s internal focus and contrast management, setting of the acoustic signals (shutter sound, focus confirmation) as well as entering the auto-power-off time (power save function) and switching the automatic image playback on/off. Only when the program selector switch is in the “data transfer” position is the setup menu also accessible, in which the date (up to 2030) and time can be set, the automatic file numbering can be reset to zero, the RAW mode and histogram insertion can be switched on and off, and the macro mode can also be activated in conjunction with converters. In addition, the E-10 provides DPOF image order format support in print mode and various playback functions (auto slide show, card copy function, image erase and card formatting function, and brightness control for the color monitor) in playback mode. To reset all values back to the factory settings, you can trigger a “reset” by pressing a key combination.
On the hardware side, the E-10 has an illuminated LC display, a picture erase and picture lock button, an audio/video output (PAL or NTSC, depending on the sales region) and a connection socket for an RM-CB1 electric cable remote release. Alternatively, the E-10 can be operated wirelessly from a distance using the supplied RM-1 infrared remote control (range: 5 metres).
Scope of delivery
The packaging of the E-10 contains the camera itself, a 16 MByte SmartMedia removable memory card (given the resolution and price of the E-10, Olympus could be more generous), a USB data cable, a video cable, 2 pieces of CR-V3 disposable lithium batteries, a fairly neat carrying strap with non-slip trim, and the RM-1 infrared remote control. A calyx-shaped sun visor, which not only protects the E-10 from sunlight entering from the side but also gives it a professional look, is also included. Protection against material damage to the lens is provided by the supplied lens cap with snap lock, which can be attached to the lens even when the sun visor is attached.
A printed Quick Start Guide is included with the E-10 for initial contact with the camera – the detailed version is available in PDF format on CD-ROM (see “Operating Instructions” section for more details). Two further CD-ROMs contain the multifunctional software (including image transfer and image viewing) Camedia Master 2.5 and the multimedia database Camedia Suite (including MediaSuite Extension with PhotoGenetics in a time-limited version). The enclosed warranty card grants a one-year warranty valid throughout Europe. A small brochure gives an overview of the Camedia accessory range; however, the E-10 accessories are not yet listed in it. Olympus offers optional accessories specially designed for the E-10 in the form of optical accessories (see “Optics” section), flash accessories (FL-40 system flash unit, FL-CB02 connecting cable, FL-BK01 flash rail with handle), an electric wired remote control (RM-CB1) and various power supply alternatives (see “Power Supply” section). A slip-on bag especially for the E-10 is available under the product name CS-1SH.
The Olympus Camedia E-10 undoubtedly meets semi-professional, even professional demands. For around DM 4,500, the camera offers almost everything you could wish for in such a demanding class – with the exception of interchangeable lenses However, the fixed lens of the E-10 covers a focal length range that should be particularly interesting for portrait and studio photographers (still life, pack shots). The E-10 is less suitable for sports, news and action photography – even with the optional teleconverter. For this, the switch-on and image reproduction time of the E-10 is too long and a digital SLR camera with interchangeable lenses (Canon EOS D30, Fujifilm FinePix S1 Pro, Nikon D1, Kodak DCS series) is more flexible in practical use, but also much more expensive.
But also the E-10 is not exactly cheap and with a complete equipment of accessories one can easily double the price. Of course, one does not forgive smaller (and also bigger) blemishes as easily as with a consumer digital camera that is half as expensive. Fortunately, there are few such flaws in the E-10. These are mainly the focal length information on the lens, the missing program shift function and the autofocus. The latter might like to have a focus tracking function as well as several AF points to live up to the reputation of a modern, professional camera.
The camera’s noise behavior is also not entirely free of criticism – despite all the technical effort Olympus has put into keeping noise within limits. The extent to which the E-10 can keep up with digital cameras of the same or higher resolution in terms of noise behaviour will become clear in the coming months when the next generation of digital cameras is launched. However, Olympus has once again raised the bar with the Camedia E-10, and it will be interesting to see how the competition will react to the new milestone that the E-10 represents.
- professional “look and feel”
- tilting monitor
- optimum system flash control
- Autofocus not continuous
- Autofocus with only one measuring field
Olympus E10 Datasheet
|Sensor||CCD sensor 2/3″ 8.8 x 6.6 mm (crop factor 3.9
)4.0 megapixels (physical), 4.0 megapixels (effective)
|Image formats||JPG, RAW, TIF|
|Color depth||24 bits (8 bits per color channel)|
|Focal length||35 to 140 mm (35mm equivalent
|Aperture||F2 to F11 (wide angle
)F2.4 to F11 (telephoto)
|Autofocus functions||Single auto focus, continuous auto focus, manual|
|Filter thread||62 mm|
Viewfinder and Display
|SLR viewfinder||Reflex viewfinder available, changeable screens|
|Exposure metering||Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement|
|Exposure times||1/640 to 2 s (Automatic
)1/640 to 8 s (Manual)
|Exposure control||Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual|
|Exposure Compensation||-3.0 to +3.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV|
|Scene modes||No scene mode programs|
|White balance||Automatic, from 3.000 to 7.500 K|
|Continuous shooting||3 fps at highest resolution|
|Self-timer||Self-timer with 12 s interval, special features: , 2 s by remote control|
|Flash||built-in flash (hinged
)Flash shoe: Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contact
|Flash range||0.6 to 9.9 m at wide angle0
.5 to 8.2 m at telephoto
|Flash functions||Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Red-eye Reduction|
|Image stabilizer||no optical image stabilizer|
CF (Type I, Type II)
|second memory card slot||
SmartMedia 90 MB
|Power supply unit||Power supply connection|
|Power supply||2 x CR-V3 (standard battery
)4 x AA (standard battery)
|Playback functions||Image index|
|Connections||Data interfaces: USB|
|Special features and miscellaneous||Recording settings can be saved and recalled later|
Size and weight
|Weight||1.130 g (ready for operation)|
|Dimensions W x H x D||129 x 104 x 161 mm|
|standard accessory||Panasonic CR-V3 disposable battery16
MByte SmartMedia cardUSB connection cableImage editing softwarePhoto GeneticImage database
Olympus MediaSuite for WindowsCamera software
Camedia Master for Windows and for Macintosh
|additional accessories||Olympus FC-WR (Radio Control Unit) Flash AccessoriesOlympus
FL-700WR Slide-on Flash with Swivel Reflector Power Supply0.8x Wide-Angle Converter1
.45x Tele-ConverterMacro Attachment