a consortium of manufacturers including Olympus, Panasonic and Kodak
agreed on the development of standards based on a new digital sensor size
"four thirds" which has a crop factor of 2 when compared to the
35mm film standard and thus the sensor area is one quarter the size and thus
much cheaper to make. Leica has now joined this consortium and plans to
offer a range of high quality lenses and cameras in joint partnership with
The impetus behind development of the 4/3rds standard is
production of lenses which are smaller, lighter, faster and cheaper
than lenses designed for 35mm film cameras. This is based on the
concept that 35mm film camera lenses are needlessly large, heavy and
expensive for meeting the needs of digital imaging. Moreover, the
lenses designed for the 4/3rds format are "near-telecentric"
- which helps avoid vignetting, color fringing, and softness at the
edges of the image.
in August 2008, the consortium agreed to extend the system by introducing
a new ultracompact camera system standard called "Micro
Four Thirds" which uses the same size sensor but allows even more
compact lenses, see Four Thirds Micro for
more details. The success of this format may eventually mean the end of the
Four Thirds format, even though Micro Four Thirds is NOT suited to using
large, heavy lenses.
advantages of this system:
the best range of lenses specifically designed for digital sensors:
high quality super-wide angle zoom lens (the ZD 7-14mm lens)
high quality image stabilised macro lenses (ZD 50mm f/2.0 plus ANY
legacy MF macro lens)
two of the best standard range zooms available:
ZD 12-60mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD
ZD 14-54mm F/2.8-3.5 mark II for contrast AF
highest quality of all kit lenses and great consumer grade lenses eg.
telecentric design means the teleconverters work on ANY digital lens
for Four Thirds (this is not the case with Canon EOS as their TC's only
work on certain lenses).
what other system gives you in 35mm terms, 24-120mm and 100-400mm
f/2.8-3.5 high quality affordable lenses with IS?
due to 2x crop, compact, light supertelephotos with large
apertures and high quality are possible
with just the 150mm f/2.0 lens and EC-14 and EC-20
teleconverters you get high quality light, compact,
weatherproof, hand holdable IS with the following options in
300mm f/2.0 IS
420mm f/2.8 IS
600mm f/4 IS
sure, the 150mm f/2.0 lens is expensive but cheaper, more
lighter and versatile than a Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS lens and when
matched with the E3 has 5EV IS instead of 2-3EV and faster AF in
low light, and can be hand-held being only 1.6kg compared to
2.8kg for the Canon lens.
the combination of this lens with the E3 makes a fantastic kit
nature, wildlife, safari and even birding (although a ZD
90-250mm f/2.8 zoom maybe better for birding)
ideally though, for nebulae you would need to have the
IR filter in the E3 replaced and no-one does this yet.
the 300mm f/2.0 would be a great specification for
most astrophotographers (akin to the reknown Canon 200mm
f/2.8L), and most importantly, it does not have optical
IS elements that would otherwise distort star shapes.
the articulating live preview LCD on the E3 makes
composition and manual focus so much easier
the Olympus live preview is the ONLY one to have Live
Boost which helps with fainter stars.
the E3 has timed 60sec exposures which is usually
perfect for most astrophotography and has reasonable ISO
performance at ISO 800-1600.
the smallest dSLR for when you need compact or discrete:
the Olympus 420/450 - even includes live preview and sensor dust
one of the better mid-range semi-pro & pro dSLRs if video not
the Olympus E5, Olympus E-3 and E-30 are the best
mid-range dSLR where the following are important:
almost waterproof (E-3/5 only) - can pour a bottle of water on it and its
if you don't need this, the Olympus E-30 has most of the
other E-3 features and some more, and is lighter.
dustproof (E-3/5 only)
weather-proofed lenses (pro and super pro series)
most effective image stabiliser that works on ANY lens
electronic spirit level - horizontal and vertical (E5, E-30 only)
can use most legacy lenses
(unlike the Nikon D300 which will only use Nikon F lenses)
macrophotography - 2x crop
allows greater working distances, while image stabiliser is very
infrared photography where
you don't want the camera modified although need f/2 lens to see
anything in bright sunlight with R72 filter on and need 5 sec
exposures or more
fast flash sync - 1/250th sec and SP Flash mode at any speed which allows use of
wide apertures for daylight fill-in flash and thus narrower DOF for
remote wireless TTL (although the Nikon system may be better)
hand held telephoto reach in a small lens system (eg. wildlife/nature
cheaper, smaller and lighter bodies and lenses with high
quality for same price.
for an illustration of the benefits of 4/3rds, compare the Digital
Zuiko 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 zoom with the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L-series
zoom. The Olympus lens is as good or better in image quality, but
has a wider zoom range, it is half the size and weight, and costs
less than half as much, and when combined with the new Oly dSLRs has
image stabilisation as well.
live preview sensors for accurate manual focusing, composition and
assessment of DOF as well as for composing in difficult camera
accurate manual focus is not really possible on non-full frame
cameras without live preview or special focusing screen
CCD-shift image stabiliser so IS works on all lenses providing 3-5
availability of image stabilised lenses produced by Leica if you
really want optical IS option.
automatic sensor dust removal system which seems to be better than
those implemented in other brands.
can use almost ANY legacy manual focus (or older Nikon AF) lens
available EXCEPT Canon EOS or FD lenses, and thus can use unique lenses
such as a Nikon tilt-shift lens.
the only format that has a 90mm f/2.0 equiv. optical image stabilised
lens (the Leica 45mm f/2 macro OIS in late 2007)
Nikon has a 158mm f/2.8 equiv. VR lens (the 105mm macro VR lens)
Canon as no IS macro lens
nb. Olympus also has a 100mm equiv. f/2.0 macro lens (the ZD 50mm
macro) which is IS via the E5xx, E-30, E-620 or E3.
sensor dynamic range less and thus noise at high ISO is more so not as
quite as good for action photography in low light.
2x crop means not so useful for using legacy manual focus wide angle lenses
a distant 3rd to Nikon and Canon in popularity
no upgrade pathway to a full frame 35mm system as with Canon, but then
most people who buy the APS-C Canon's tend to buy the EF-S lenses which
won't work on the full frame Canon anyway.
not as many AF lenses to choose from, but the ones they do have are
great and you can use other brand lenses - just not in AF.
exposure bracketing only +/- 2 stops not +/- 3 stops making HDR
landscapes a bit more difficult
currently, no where as good as the Canon 1D for action photography,
but as technology improves and sensor noise at high ISO falls along with
increased burst rates and buffer size, there is good reason to believe
that Olympus can produce a great, lightweight, image stabilised action
camera as the 2x crop becomes particularly advantageous here in terms of
very few prime lenses - eg. 100mm f/2 SWD macro, 200mm f/2.5 and a
300mm f/4 would be nice
many of the lenses need design upgrade for SWD AF and also contrast
detect AF capability
eg. 50mm f/2 macro, 150mm f/2.0, 300mm f/2.8
eg. 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD needs contrast detect AF added
Olympus E-5 (mid-2010):
weather-proofed version as with E-3
articulating LCD with live view and HD lite video
Olympus E-450 (Mar 2009):
minor upgrade to the entry level, compact, light
E-420 and adds some features from the E-620:
3 art Filters (Pop Art, Soft Focus and Pin Hole)
TruePic III+ processor
increased continuous shooting buffer (8 RAW files, rather than
improved screen (The luminance has been improved on the
existing HyperCrystal II panel)
BUT still no image stabiliser built-in
Olympus E-620 (Mar 2009):
a brilliant entry-level dSLR which is lighter, more
compact than the E510/520 but which has al the features of the E520
PLUS many of the features of the E-30 (although some are reduced)
12.3mp sensor but only 4fps not 5fps
7pt AF including 5 cross points (not 11pts as in
E-30 but beats the 3pts of the E520)
no top panel LCD of the E-30
1/4000th sec (not 1/8000th as with E-30)
x-sync 1/180th (not 1/250th as with E-30)
95% field of view (not 98% as with E-30)
6 art filters of the E-30 but no electronic
4 aspect ratios (not 9 as with the E-30)
multiexposure mode allows 2 frames (not 4 frames as with E-30)
face recognition AF in live view
521g incl. battery (E-30 is 768g, whilst E-520
lower capacity battery (BLS-1 instead of the
no PC sync socket or DC-in socket
Olympus E-30 (Mar 2009):
a mid-level dSLR with features of the E-3 excluding
its weather-sealing and a few additional "creativity"
creative art filters plus electronic spirit
multi-exposure mode - up to 6 images combined
12.3mp 5fps sensor
live simulation function
98% field of view viewfinder - smaller than E3
but larger than E520
Olympus E-520 (May 2008):
upgrade to my favourite budget dSLR, the E-510 with
the new features of the E420 (see below) plus adds an extra IS mode
so you can now select IS for only horizontal as well as only
vertical in addition to usual IS in both directions and IS improved
to up to 4stops IS.
takes the best of design features of E500 and E330 and adds
live preview on a tiltable LCD screen (similar to that on the
Oly 8080) which allows 14x live magnification for accurate
announced Jan 2006; discontinued in 2007;
THIS CAMERA IS REVOLUTIONARY IN CREATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY
- but still not perfect. Its manual focus and AF solves
most of the problems of the
8080 while adding digital SLR features and keeping the live preview
waist-level LCD of the 8080.
similar physical design as the E300 but updated feature
set similar to the E500 but uses a "live MOS" (NMOS) sensor
instead of CCD sensor and no DC-in.
Olympus E-500 (late 2005):
better design than the E-300, still 8mpixel but better noise
control and larger LCD, more features and lighter.
$A1299 with lens kit initially now $A1000.
Adobe Photoshop CS is not capable of converting E500 or E330
RAW files. You will need CS2
and the Camera
RAW 3.3 plugin. but you can also buy the cheaper Adobe
Elements 3, which also supports the plugin.
8 megapixel; lighter, compact than most dSLRs; robust metal
chassis (unlike the plastic Canon 300D/NikonD70); 3 AF
points; no live histogram; 580g; USB 1.1; 2.5fps x 3 RAW;
x-Sync 1/180th; predictive AF;
to me this was not as compelling a camera that I would buy,
but at the time, the only budget Olympus dSLR - I decided to
wait and use the Olympus 8080 camera
until its replacement, the E330 came on the market with its live
preview modes and better AWB.
a 5 megapixel, 6.8 micron pixels, weatherproof body
Advantages to the E1 are: the overall construction, weatherseals, matched lenses, quality of the finder, flash system
that works reliably, direct out of camera printable images, as well
as overall feel, the 4:3 aspect ratio mitigates the smaller 5 Mp
sensor in 8x10 prints vs the 6Mp sensor in the D70.
The noise in the
E1, much talked about, at about 800 ISO, is colorless so is less
bothersome than was the case on the Canons but programs such as
Noise Ninja make this less of an issue;
one minor problem with the E3xx/E4xx/E5xx cameras is the viewfinder image
is also smaller and this can make accurate manual focus difficult, although
in most you do have live preview to help for stationary subjects.
the Olympus E3 and the E-30 have beautiful, large, bright viewfinders
unfortunately, the viewfinder mount is not compatible with the OM
viewfinder mount so you need Four Thirds accessories:
NB. the screens in the E300/E330/E4xx/E5xx are regarded by Olympus as
"fixed" and thus changing them may void warranty and may also
affect the accuracy of exposure metering, especially spot metering which
requires a uniform central part and may give variable results with the
this type has two flanges which sit under a wire on each side,
thus to remove the screen, gently lift the wire and let the screen
drop out, then replace it with new screen and hold it in place under
personally, I would not bother getting one for the E330.
instructions from one supplier for both types:
How to install a Split Image Focus
First you need the following tools: a Tweezer
which will not scratch, and a wooden Toothpick.
1. Remove the lens from your DSLR.
2. Lay your DSLR on its back, and use the toothpick to lift the
buckle hidden behind the sponge on the reflection board.
3. Remember how the fixture frame of the original focus screen is
laid (by Camera or on paper), and then use the tweezer to lift it.
4. Lift the top end of your DSLR a little bit, and then use the
tweezer to lift the original focus screen by holding the very edge
of it (Make sure you do this step softly and carefully enough not to
damage your focus screen).
5. Use the tweezer to put your new split image focus screen into the
place by holding the very edge of it (Make sure you do this step
softly and carefully enough not to damage your focus screen) and
make sure the non-smooth side is facing the pentagon lens on the top
6. Shake your DSLR a little bit and make sure your new split image
focus screen is in the right and steady position.
7. Put back your fixture frame of the original focus screen and make
sure it is in its original right position.
8. Use the toothpick to put on the buckle hidden behind the sponge
on the reflection board.
9. Install the lens on your DSLR.
10. Put the original focus screen into the plastic protection box.
only allows locking shutter for BULB - but no intervalometer function
3rd party Chinese USB intervalometers are available on Ebay - eg. here
for RM-UC1 replacement for E410/420/510/520 - otherwise just search Ebay.
USB connectors for Olympus dSLRs:
prior to 2006, Olympus dSLRs used a separate connector for USB and video
CB-USB4 cable used for these cameras (ie. E-1, E300) while CB-USB1
cable used for older cameras (E-10, E-20).
after 2006, Olympus dSLRs used a single 12-pin USB multi-connector which
acted as both USB and video out:
there was no shutter release functionality provided via this connector
for E500/E330 dSLRs, but this has been added for subsequent dSLRs
including E400/E410/E510, thus only these latter cameras can use the
RM-UC1 remote cord (earlier models have to use the infrared remote
CB-USB6 cable only provides USB data connectivity
if you use a USB AV/PC-2 cable, you can use analogue video out and USB
at the same time
currently, only cameras with movie recording capability (the non-dSLRs)
allow audio out functionality.