The 10-megapixel Olympus E-400 digital SLR harks back to the past with a diminutive design closely modeled on the Olympus OM-1.
With its combination of a Four Thirds sensor and high pixel count, we might as well get this out of the way first – the E-400 is noisy. This isn’t surprising and, given the sensor size and resolution, it’s pretty much inevitable. However, it’s what Olympus has done to the noise – or, more precisely, not done to it – that’s most important.
Instead of cranking up the noise-reduction processing and running the risk of losing image detail, Olympus seems to have said: ‘Let’s keep some noise in the image, but keep detail and sharpness too.’ And you know what? It works.
The E-400 treads an excellent line between image clarity and noise and, while there is the suggestion of texture in A3-sized prints taken at ISO 200 (and obvious disruption at higher ISO settings), images are sharp and packed full of detail – even at ISO 1600. As an aside, if noise is a concern, bear in mind that software such as Neat Image and Noise Ninja will come to the rescue and – let’s face it – it’s a lot easier to remove noise than it is to add detail.
Exposure & White Balance
The exposures and white balance are also well controlled, to the point that the ESP metering proves reliable in all but the trickiest of conditions. It is especially impressive when it comes to dealing with scenes containing a mixture of bright highlights and deep shadows.
We’re also pleased to report that, despite redesigning the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, the quality of the Zuiko optic has been retained, with a noticeable lack of colour fringing. Once again, it appears as though the telecentric design of the E-System’s optics works well, though having a good sensor behind it undoubtedly helps.
Overall, with the exception of high noise levels across the ISO range, the E-400 delivers first-class images.