Olympus Evolt E-510 Digital SLR Camera
At a Glance
Olympus EVOLT E-510 Digital SLR Camera
This SLR offers many advanced features for the price, though some sophisticated functions can be difficult to access.
Updated 12/23/08: While many digital SLRs priced under $1000 have severely limited features, Olympus's Evolt E-510 bucks the trend. Priced at $600 with a standard lens (as of 12/10/08), this 10-megapixel camera is designed for photo enthusiasts who have a basic command of photographic technique and want a camera that can handle almost any situation. And though its multitude of features might make it a bit daunting to some, the E-510 is a solid, flexible camera that takes very good pictures under most conditions.
Together, the camera and its standard 14mm-to-42mm zoom lens weigh less than 2 pounds. Even with the 40mm-to-150mm telephoto zoom lens (available as part of a $579 two-lens bundle), you won't feel weighed down. The E-510 doesn't feel flimsy, however. The body is well built, and the grip felt comfortable in my hand.
When you're ready to start taking pictures, the shutter and exposure compensation buttons are easy to find, and the big control dial on top invites you to select the shooting mode you want. The dial offers five dedicated scene modes (portrait, landscape, macro, sports, and night portrait), and thirteen other modes--designed to account for shooting situations that range from fireworks to documents to panoramas--are accessible via menus.
Unlike some digital SLRs in its class, the E-510 has a great many features built in. For example, in addition to offering exposure bracketing--the ability to take multiple versions of a picture at different settings, thereby raising your chances of capturing a properly exposed image under difficult lighting conditions--this model can bracket shots for flash and white balance. You also get two levels of image stabilization to help minimize camera shake, a depth-of-field preview button, multiple metering modes (including a spot meter), and a dust-removal feature that vibrates the sensor when you turn the camera on. Additional extras include variable flash strength, mirror lockup capability (to minimize camera shake further), and support for both CompactFlash and XD Picture Card formats.
The E-510's live View mode, which lets you use the 2.5-inch LCD as a viewfinder, is especially handy when you can't position your eye on the viewfinder to get the shot. It's not really designed to be used all the time, however; overuse can heat up the camera's sensor and introduce noise into your images.
My primary complaint about the camera is that the interface to some of the advanced features is a bit clunky, but that's counterbalanced by the fact that access to the primary features is intuitive and easy. Another drawback is the absence of focus switches on the Olympus lenses; to adjust a lens's focus, you need to change the autofocus setting in the camera. But aside from these minor issues, the E-510 has all of the basic functionality that an entry-level or serious shooter needs.
Features wouldn't be worth much if the E-510's pictures weren't of high quality, and Olympus didn't disappoint in this respect either. Color fidelity and saturation were very good, and the E-510 handled most shooting conditions easily. At lower ISO ranges, the E-510's images show very little noise; as you reach and exceed ISO 800, color noise begins to appear, though it's no worse than on other cameras of a similar price.