The Olympus E620 raises the Four Thirds DSLR standard once more. So is the E620 the Four Thirds DSLR we've all been waiting for? The What Digital Camera Olympus E-620 full review reveals all...
Olympus E-620 Review – Features
The Olympus E-620 is the 12th DSLR in Olympus’s Four Thirds family, targeted at enthusiasts and advanced entry-level users. Influenced by the E-30, the E620 builds on the E-420 and E-520 before it, although the company has stressed that it isn’t a replacement for either model.
The Olympus E620 has a 12.3MP LiveMOS device sensor, which in all probability is the same as, or at least similar to, the one found in the Olympus E-30. Measuring 17.3x13mm, images are output in the 4:3 format as standard, in a choice of Raw and JPEG options. The sensor is fronted by a Supersonic Wave Filter, part of Olympus’s dust reduction technology, and is complemented by an image-stabilisation system that claims to offer up to four extra EV stops of usable shutter speeds beyond what’s usually possible.
Olympus E620 Review – Processing Power
As with the recent E-450, the Olympus E-620 hosts an upgraded version of Olympus’s TruePic III processing engine. The TruePic III+ processor provides images with ‘natural colour, brilliant blue skies and precise tonal expression, while lowering noise at higher ISOs’. Its other responsibilities concern the live view system, and a 4fps burst rate, which is maintained for up to five Raw images.
In line with the more expensive E-30, the E620 has high sensitivity to encompasses ISO 100-3200, which, while hardly class-leading, should be capable in most conditions. Another trait both the E620 and E-30 share is the 2.7in LCD screen, which may be pulled away from the body and adjusted around an angle of 270°, though the E-620 does feature a different type of HyperCrystal Technology from the E-30. In any case, this LCD is one of the camera’s headline features, and will no doubt be a huge draw for those wishing for the flexibility of an articulated LCD screen, but not wanting to stretch to the E-30.
Olympus E-620 Review – New AF System
Unfortunately, the Olympus E620’s similarity to the E-30 doesn’t extend as far as the E-30’s 11-point AF system, although the E-620’s system is still a radical improvement on those in Olympus’s previous models. The new system in the Olympus E620 sees five cross-type points along the horizontal, joined by a point each above and below these – making a
total of seven AF points. The Olympus E620 also offers autofocusing in
live view by a trio of options: Hybrid AF, Sensor AF and Imager AF.
Impressively, the E620 goes on to offer a number of features usually reserved for professionally-oriented bodies. AF calibration is possible for up to 20 individual optics, as is wireless flash control for external units
(which, to Olympus’s credit, has been offered for some time now on such
models). It’s also welcome to see a range of bracketing options,
covering not just exposure and flash, but white balance and sensitivity,
too. The E620 has metering options which break free from the standard evaluative, centre-weighted and spot trio, too – including highlight-spot and shadow-spot options in addition to these.
Finally, both xD and CompactFlash memory cards are supported by the Olympus E620, which is handy if upgrading from previous Olympus models; as is the
fact that the battery is the same as those in the Olympus E-420 and E-410 models.
Olympus E620 Review – Design
The body of the Olympus E-620 is perhaps best described as an amalgamation of the E-420, E-520 and E-30. The hinge adjoining the vari-angle LCD screen has displaced the menu, info, play and delete buttons from the former two’s template, though their basic structure has remained. A four-way menu pad is twinned with metering, AF, white balance and ISO controls, with these joined by separate buttons for image stabilisation and live view.
The E620’s focusing points may be changed quickly via the dedicated button positioned by the thumb-rest, while the function button beside this may be assigned an option for quick access. The gloss finish of the E-520’s buttons has been replaced with a matt one on the E-620, though the buttons seem a touch smaller and with less travel; on such a small body this makes an already tricky job that little bit harder. Olympus does redeem itself somewhat by backlighting the buttons on the rear of the body; when you’re shooting in low light this is nothing short of a godsend.
Olympus E620 Review – Size matters
As regards the grip, the Olympus E620 sees a slight beefing up of the E-420’s, though it still feels a little lacking in comparison with the E-520’s, particularly when a heavier lens is mounted. This does have the advantage of a smaller footprint, however, and with the 25mm pancake lens the model may easily be slipped inside a roomy coat pocket – something not many DSLRs may lay claim to.
I’m pleased to see that Olympus has logically opted to place the strap eyelets on the top-plate (like on the E-520) as opposed to the front of the camera (as on the E-420), just as I am that the memory card door may now be slid open, rather than previously needing to be opened via an uncomfortably small groove.
Olympus E620 Review – Different viewfinder
While the Olympus E620 provides a 95% coverage viewfinder (as did its predecessors), its magnification has increased from 0.92x on the E-420/E-520 to 0.96x on the E-620. Clearly this is good in that it gives the new model a slightly larger view of the scene, but the exposure information within it is no longer along its right-hand side, instead lining the bottom. This makes the view ‘taller’, and, consequently, a little harder to see both exposure information and the full scene at the same time than it is on the E-520.
Performance, Quality & Value
If you already own an E-system DSLR you should feel right at home with the E-620. The menu’s interface is very similar to Olympus’s previous offerings, with only certain options shifted further into the menus and the new additions making any discernible difference.
The Super Control Panel, where all key image parameters are displayed and changed, is also the same, although everything is a touch larger in the new model and the screen is, as promised, brighter than was previously the case. The model seems to power up a fraction slower than the E-520 but, curiously, faster than the E-30, where all three cameras activate their Dust Reduction systems. Powering down is comparable between all three.
Olympus E620 Review – AF Speed
Autofocusing shows a similar performance to the E-30, despite the E-620’s system being stripped down by comparison. The central point shows itself to be just as sensitive, and with an SWD lens pleasingly prompt, too, though the E-620 shows slightly less hesitation as it has fewer points to consider. There is a noticeable slowdown when using non-SWD equipped lenses, which happens to be all bar three optics. Otherwise, focusing is a little slow but an improvement over previous models.
Olympus E620 Review – Art Filters
Though I can genuinely see the Art Filters as an enjoyable means for photographers to create their own filters and share them with other users (this isn’t possible yet), it’s their implementation that irks me. Some take a long time to apply, which rules out any kind of continuous shooting, for example, while the function takes images out of a chronological order should you have them in the same folder as non-filtered images. Unless you shoot Raw you also don’t get an unadulterated file alongside, should you not like the effect, and there’s no apparent way of editing or removing these effects in camera. This is particularly disconcerting as many other in-camera post-processing options are available. The only reasons I can think of as to why Olympus only offers this as an option during capture is so that it can override the necessary parameters (such as metering), and, possibly, so that it encourages people to actively use them, rather than forget they’re there.
Olympus E620 Review – Image Quality
Olympus E620 Review – Exposure and Tone
The camera is calibrated to produce an almost perfect midtone, with no bias towards shadow or highlights under controlled conditions. At lower ISO settings dynamic range exceeds 10 stops, which is perfectly reasonable for a camera of the E-620’s ilk, and means that a good degree of both shadow and highlight detail may be recovered from Raw files. In trickier lighting, exposures tend to veer towards under rather than overexposure, but something the camera must be credited for is having highlight spot and shadow spot metering options, in addition to the standard patterns. These have featured on Olympus cameras for a number of years, and make light work of metering in predominantly dark or light conditions.
Olympus E620 Review – Colour and White Balance
In terms of white balance, the camera follows its predecessors in delivering images with a slight warmth. Typically this can result in slight casts over lighter areas, though not to any objectionable level. Something which does come in handy is the one-touch white balance facility, which works by the user assigning the option to the function button. Custom White Balance may then be set quickly by measuring a part of the scene as a reference point. Colour is generally pleasing otherwise, and fairly similar to the output of the E-520 and E-30 models, neither too subtle nor vibrant at default.
Olympus E620 Review – Detail and Sharpness
JPEGs from the E-620 show good detail and sharpness, though the enthusiast will no doubt want to take matters into their own hands and fine-tune these parameters. Images benefit from a touch more sharpening in post-production, as well as a little noise reduction (though you can use the Low Noise Reduction option in-camera with good results). The image-stabilisation system is effective, and throughout the test allowed me to comfortably achieve an extra two to three stops of usable shutter speeds, at times allowing me to shoot as low as 1/2sec. This doesn’t mean the promised four stops is unachievable; I just wouldn’t count on it being quite that effective for every shot.
Olympus E620 Review – Noise and ISO
With either the same or a similar sensor as the E-30, it’s not surprising that images from the two cameras exhibit very similar characteristics. Comparing images from the two cameras against those with the E-520, the latter does seem to have a slight advantage in controlling noise, though at least the ISO 3200 setting now allows you to go one stop further on the newer models. Noise is largely of the luminance variety, and so pleasantly free from coloured speckling, though in some situations it’s visible even at ISO 200.
Olympus E620 Review – Raw and JPEG
If you keep to the standard camera settings, the difference between Raw and JPEG files from the E-620 is minimal. Typically, noise is slightly smoothed out and colour is given a slight boost. The camera comes with the Studio software package with which basic Raw processing may be
carried out, and a 30-day trial of the more comprehensive Master suite.
Olympus E620 Review – Value For Money
The £300 price difference between the E-620 and the next model up, the E-30, seems reasonably justified, even making the E-620 appear as a better-value model. The main advantages of the E-30 are a larger viewfinder, more complete AF system and a 1fps faster burst shooting rate for up to 12 Raw frames, though the E-620 has a better LCD screen and the obvious advantage of being noticeably smaller and lighter. There’s also a price gap of around £300 between the E-620 and the next model down, the E-520. In this instance, the premium covers a better AF system, Art Filters and the LCD screen, as well as a different viewfinder and resolution.
The Olympus E-620 provides the ultimate portable, creative DSLR – with this as a concept, Olympus has unquestionably succeeded. And, should the novelty of the E620’s Art Filters wear off, or should you not be drawn to them in the first place, the Olympus E620 is still a fantastic camera underneath. Packed full of useful features, the model strikes a balance between Olympus’s current entry-level and enthusiast DSLRs, and does indeed seem to be what Four Thirds proponents have been waiting for.
The question is, would you be prepared to pay around £700 for the Olympus E620? After all, despite it being much cheaper than the E-30, it’s only a continuation of the E-420 and 520 model, and so still entry-level in many respects. The omission of video capture is more forgivable, though this does look to be an area of growing interest in the future; will it be one entered by Olympus at some point?
As a camera in its own right the E620 is a capable alternative to the more sober offerings from other manufacturers, and is genuinely fun to use. For the time being however it can be safely considered a pricey addition to the DSLR market, but one that should make quite a splash in the Four Thirds world.
The Olympus E-620 provides the ultimate portable, creative DSLR - with this as a concept, Olympus has unquestionably succeeded. And, should the novelty of the E620's Art Filters wear off, or should you not be drawn to them in the first place, the Olympus E620 is still a fantastic camera underneath. Packed full of useful features, the model strikes a balance between Olympus's current entry-level and enthusiast DSLRs, and does indeed seem to be what Four Thirds proponents have been waiting for.The question is, would you be prepared to pay around £700 for the Olympus E620? After all, despite it being much cheaper than the E-30, it's only a continuation of the E-420 and 520 model, and so still entry-level in many respects. The omission of video capture is more forgivable, though this does look to be an area of growing interest in the future; will it be one entered by Olympus at some point?As a camera in its own right the E620 is a capable alternative to the more sober offerings from other manufacturers, and is genuinely fun to use. For the time being however it can be safely considered a pricey addition to the DSLR market, but one that should make quite a splash in the Four Thirds world. What Digital Camera Olympus E620 Review Verdict.