Olympus E-410 Review

 
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Olympus EVOLT E-410 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Some oversaturation of strong red and blue tones, and undersaturation of some greens, but pleasing overall color.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.
Saturation. The Olympus EVOLT E-410 oversaturates reds and blues a little, and some yellows. It also undersaturates some greens, but results are still pleasing. (We did find that shots with a lot of foliage in them had a bit of a blue cast, and saturation was subdued though.) Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The E-410 did render skin tones a bit on the pale, pink side in most cases. Still, results are reasonable, and not oversaturated as some consumer cameras are inclined to render them. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. Overall results here are pretty accurate, though some reds are pushed toward orange, and cyan toward blue. Still, overall color is quite good, closer to accurate than many. Note: Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto white balance is quite warm, but Manual and Incandescent white balance settings both produce good color. A greater than average positive exposure compensation required though.

Auto White Balance +1.7 EV Incandescent WB +1.7 EV
Manual White Balance +1.7 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was very warm with the Auto white balance setting, though the Manual and Incandescent options both produced more accurate results. The Incandescent setting was actually pretty good, producing nearly accurate color, with just a hint of the warmth of the scene lighting showing through. The Manual setting gave the most pleasing results overall. The Olympus EVOLT E-410 required more than the average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +1.7 EV. Overall color is quite good, though the blue flowers are rather dark. (A common outcome with this shot.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Good colors overall, though a tendency toward a warm cast and high contrast hurts both highlight and shadow detail. About average exposure accuracy outdoors.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Olympus EVOLT E-410 tended to lose highlight detail under harsh lighting while requiring a slightly lower than average amount of positive exposure compensation of +0.7 EV. Contrast was quite high, resulting in clipped highlights in Marti's shirt and some of the flowers, and lost shadow detail in the darker areas. (This reinforces our dynamic range measurements, which showed that the E410 has less dynamic range than most SLRs currently on the market.) The outdoor house shot has good exposure and natural looking color.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
Very high resolution, 1,700 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,700 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,700 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,700 lines per picture height, with extinction past 2,000. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Our interpretation of this standard is somewhat conservative. We watch for artifacts and color fringing then move back to the nearest pure part of the scale. In our opinion, detail with artifacts shouldn't be considered detail. You may see other numbers quoted elsewhere, but across the site, our reviews judge this parameter by the same conservative standard.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Pretty good detail, but images are a little soft overall. Some noise suppression visible in the deep shadows, but less noise suppression in midtones than many competing cameras.

Despite evidence of edge enhancement, images from the E-410 have a hint of softness overall. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

Sharpness. The Olympus EVOLT E-410 captured a lot of detail, but its images straight from the camera are slightly soft overall. Even in the high contrast shot above, there's only slight edge enhancement visible along the edges of the white house trim. These images take unsharp masking fairly well, however. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Detail & Noise suppression. The crop above right shows some visible noise suppression in the shadows, though quite a bit of fine detail in the strands of hair remains visible. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, higher noise with strong blurring at the highest settings.

ISO 100 ISO 200
(sorry, slight motion blur)
ISO 400
 
ISO 800 ISO 1,600  

Noise levels are low to moderate at the Olympus EVOLT E-410's lower sensitivity settings. At ISOs 800 and 1,600, noise is much higher (as you might expect), with stronger blurring, increased chroma noise and a slight shift in color balance. Compared to other cameras in its class, the E410 does a good job of controlling noise while retaining subtle subject detail. Its ISO 1,600 images are softer overall, but there's less of the "smoosh" of detail in areas of subtle contrast than we've seen in the images of many other consumer DSLRs at that ISO level.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, though details are slightly soft. High contrast and limited shadow detail, however. Good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and much darker conditions.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Olympus EVOLT E-410 had a hard time with the deliberately harsh lighting of the above test, producing rather high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Though Marti's face still looks a little dark at +0.7 EV, I preferred that shot to the image at +1.0 EV, which had too many blown highlights for my preference. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

We puzzled over the E410's tone curve a little, it seemed to have higher contrast (resulting in less preserved detail) in both highlights and shadows than it has in the midtones. This made images harder to tweak without losing highlight or shadow detail (or both). The camera's low-contrast setting seemed to help a fair bit with this though, as it held the highlights and shadows in check, letting the midtones hold a more natural level of contrast.

Note: Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)



  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16fc
No NR
ISO
100
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2.5 sec
f3.5
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5 sec
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10 sec
f3.5
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20 sec
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40 sec
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40 sec
f3.5
ISO
200
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1.3 sec
f3.5
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2.5 sec
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5 sec
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10 sec
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ISO
400
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0.6 sec
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1.3 sec
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2.5 sec
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5 sec
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10 sec
f3.5
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10 sec
f3.5
ISO
800
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0.3 sec
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0.6 sec
f3.5
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1.3 sec
f3.5
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2.5 sec
f3.5
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5 sec
f3.5
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5 sec
f3.5
ISO
1600
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1/6 sec
f3.5
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0.3 sec
f3.5
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0.6 sec
f3.5
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1.3 sec
f3.5
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2.5 sec
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2.5 sec
f3.5

Low light. The Olympus EVOLT E-410 performed well here, able to capture usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle light level (about 1/16 as bright as average city street lighting at night), at all ISO settings. Color balance is just a bit warm from the Auto white balance setting. You'll probably want to keep Noise Reduction on, as quite a few hot pixels are visible with it off. The camera's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to just below the 1/4 foot-candle light level with its AF assist light turned off, so you'll want to keep it enabled in darker conditions. Keep in mind that the longer shutter speeds here demand the use of a tripod to prevent any blurring from camera movement. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Digital SLRs like the Olympus E-410 do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, great 11x14 inch prints. ISO 1,600 images are surprisingly good at 8x10, even better at 5x7.

Output from the Olympus E-410 was good enough to produce sharp 11x14 inch prints. At 13x19, its prints were softer looking, but perfectly fine for wall or table display. High ISO images were also a nice surprise, with ISO 400 images holding together for very good 11x14 inch prints, and ISO 800 still producing a good 8x10, and ISO 1,600s making 8x10s good enough for wall display, and fine-looking 5x7s.

Color saturation was a little bright in the reds, but good overall, with relatively little detail lost to noise suppression. Greens were a little dull, summer foliage was a little flat and blue looking, but within an acceptable range. Color also doesn't fade as ISO increases, an admirable and rare trait among image sensors. A very good performance overall.

Note: Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Olympus EVOLT E-410 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Olympus EVOLT E-410 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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