Olympus EVolt E-500
This well-equipped and reasonably priced entry-level digital SLR produces high-quality images. The 8-megapixel camera comes with a wide array of features that establish it as a legitimate challenger to Canon's popular, similarly priced Digital Rebel XT. Regrettably, usability issues prevent me from wholeheartedly recommending it over the XT.
Olympus markets the E-500 in three versions: $700 for the body only, $800 for the body plus a 14-45mm lens (the kit I tested), and $900 for that combination plus a 40-155mm lens. The E-500's body felt sturdy, the rubber grip fit snugly in my hand, and the 2.5-inch color LCD was eye-catching. By contrast, the Canon Digital Rebel XT seems somewhat less rugged, its hand grip is too skinny, and the color LCD is smaller.
For beginners, the E-500 offers 15 scene modes, but its true strength lies in its deep feature set. For example, the exposure lock and autofocus lock functions are highly customizable. And it offers plenty of choices for automatic exposure bracketing, white balance, and in-camera processing. Plus, the E-500 has a dust filter.
I enjoyed using the camera, but I found some aspects of its design and performance a bit frustrating. The camera's response to the control wheel is sluggish, and I struggled a bit when trying to focus the lens manually. Also, images shot at high ISO settings of 800 and 1600 were less than stellar, despite using the noise reduction feature.
The price and quality of the E-500's kits are hard to beat. But old-school photographers who like shooting in manual mode might find this camera a bit too slow to respond, and if you expect to shoot using high ISO settings, the Digital Rebel XT may be a better bet.
A large LCD, extensive menus, and a nice price make this camera compelling, but it has a few usability issues.