The 10-megapixel Olympus E-420 is a purposely compact DSLR that features Live View and Shadow Adjustment technology.
RAW / JPEG
JPEG quality is good in comparison with the Raw files, with punchy colours and adequate sharpness. The supplied trial of the Studio software features a wide array of adjustment options, though it’s a shame it’s only a trial. If you’re spending this sort of money on a DSLR, you should expect it to come with a program that can open and manipulate all its files, without any additional expense.
The E-420 fares well with regards to exposure, with only the occasional underexposed image. Highlight control, at default, is still not too great, and means that either Shadow Adjustment Technology (SAT), Raw shooting or exposure compensation needs to be called upon to ensure detail is rendered. In most conditions, there shouldn’t be many issues.
Up to ISO 800, noise is generally well controlled, despite a little texture even at lower settings. ISO 800 seems to be the drop-off point, where noise begins to degrade images, and at ISO 1600 there’s plenty of it. Even so, one benefit of having a relatively more populated sensor is that noise shows quite a fine texture and evenness, and so is easier to remove. Perhaps what’s most impressive is how well detail and sharpness manage to hold up, with JPEGs after ISO 800 receiving a visibile sharpening boost to counter the effects of noise. I wouldn’t recommend using the noise filter on any three of its settings; detail is severely compromised and a good deal of chroma noise still remains even on the ‘High’ setting.
Tone And Contrast
Images generally have nice colour to them, with the Natural picture mode not being too dissimilar to the more saturated Vivid mode. SAT does a good job bringing out tones at either end of the scale, though we found its effects a little extreme in certain situations. SAT may also be applied to images in-camera after they have been shot.
Colour And White Balance
We generally found Auto white balance to be accurate. At times, it produces a more accurate result than some of the preset settings, although a slight magenta cast sometimes can unexpectedly form over lighter tones. Even so, it fares very well under mixed conditions and means that it can be generally relied upon.
Sharpness And Detail
At times the E-420 really impressed with the sharpness of JPEGs produced, with JPEGs on the whole needing less sharpening than would usually be expected. Predictably, the worst performance came with the kit lens, though the sensor is clearly capable of capturing a lot of detail with good lenses.