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...
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.