Olympus E-420 Review

 
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Olympus E-420 Performance


Timing and Performance

The E-420's timing performance ranges from below average to slightly above average speed for a consumer SLR.

Startup/Shutdown
Power on
to first shot
0.8 second
Time it takes for camera to turn on and take a shot.
Shutdown
~0 second
How long it takes to turn off.
(Timings with 266x CF Card)
Buffer clearing time
Large Super Fine JPEG
4 seconds
(after 13 LSF JPEGs)
Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card. Some cameras won't shut down until the buffer is cleared. (*See note about memory card speeds at bottom of cycle time table below.)
Buffer clearing time
Small Basic JPEG
1 second
(after 20 SB JPEGs)
Buffer clearing time
RAW
6 seconds
(after 9 RAW frames)
Buffer clearing time
RAW + LSF JPEG
9 seconds
(after 7 RAW + LSF JPEG frames)

Startup time was a bit slow for an SLR, due in part to the ultrasonic sensor cleaning that takes place each power-up. Shutdown was very fast (difficult to measure). Buffer clearing time depends on the image size and quality, burst length and the speed of memory card used.

 

Mode Switching
Play to Record,
first shot
0.3 second
Time until first shot is captured.
Record to Play
1.0 second
Time to display a large/super fine file immediately after capture.
Display
recorded image
0.5 second
Time to display a large/super fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching is reasonably fast, except for Record to Play, which is slower than average.

 

Shutter Response (Lag Time)
Full Autofocus
Optical Viewfinder

Wide Angle
0.138 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder with lens at full wide angle (all AF timing done with 14-42mm kit lens).
Full Autofocus
Optical Viewfinder

Telephoto
0.133 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder with lens at full telephoto.
Full Autofocus
Optical Viewfinder, Flash enabled
0.158 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder, with flash enabled.
Full Autofocus
Live View
Imager AF
2.588 seconds
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, using Live View mode and Imager AF (contrast-detect) mode.
Full Autofocus
Live View
AF Sensor
0.635 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, using Live View mode and AF Sensor (phase-detect) mode.
Full Autofocus
Live View
Hybrid Mode
0.711 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, using Live View mode and Hybrid AF mode.
Prefocused
Optical Viewfinder
0.082 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.
Prefocused
Live View
0.569 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button, using Live View mode.
Prefocused
Live View,

Flash enabled
0.596 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button, using Live View mode, with flash enabled.
Continuous AF
Optical Viewfinder
0.183 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual focus
Optical Viewfinder
0.110 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".

In terms of the E-420's ability to determine that it's properly focused when shooting the same target multiple times, its speed is above average for a consumer model when using the optical viewfinder. The E-420 measured 0.133 to 0.138 second for full AF shutter lag, depending on the zoom position. Continuous autofocus mode lag time was a bit slower at 0.183 second, and manual focus was slightly faster at about 0.11 second. When prefocused, shutter lag dropped to 0.082 second.

Autofocus performance drops considerably in Live View mode however. Full AF shutter lag in the default "Imager AF" (contrast-detect) mode is a whopping 2.588 seconds, much longer than even the slowest point & shoot digicam these days. Switching to "AF Sensor" (phase-detect) mode and holding down the AEL/AFL button while fully depressing the shutter release improved lag to 0.635 second, which is still quite slow for an SLR. Lag with "Hybrid AF" mode, which uses a combination of contrast-detect and phase-detect AF was 0.771 second. Even prefocused, Live View shutter lag is a relatively pokey 0.569 second.

 

Cycle Time (shot to shot)
Single Shot mode
Large Super Fine JPEG
0.50 second
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 3 seconds to clear.
Single Shot mode
Small Basic JPEG
0.49 second
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 1 second to clear.
Single Shot mode
RAW
0.50 second
Time per shot, averaged over 14 shots, 5 seconds to clear.
Early shutter
penalty?
No
Some cameras refuse to snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.
Continuous mode
Large Super Fine JPEG
0.29 second
(3.48 frames/sec);
13 frames total;
4 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 13 shots. Then slows to about 0.48 seconds per frame or 2.10 fps.
Continuous mode
Small Basic JPEG
0.29 second
(3.48 frames/sec);
20+ frames total;
1 second to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.
Continuous mode
RAW
0.28 second
(3.56 frames/sec);
9 frames total;
6 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 9 shots. Then slows to about 0.38 seconds or 1.46 fps.
Continuous mode
RAW+ LSF JPEG
0.28 seconds
(3.59 frames/sec);
7 frames total;
9 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 7 shots. Then slows to about 1.66 seconds or 0.60 fps.
Flash recycling
3.43 seconds
Flash at maximum output.
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a Kingston 266x Ultimate CompactFlash card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. Settings such as ISO sensitivity can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance, with higher ISOs generally increasing JPEG cycle times and reducing burst performance.

Single-shot cycle time performance is about average for a consumer SLR, at about 0.5 second between shots in any quality mode. Buffer depth is quite good though, at over 20 JPEG frames or 14 RAW frames. Continuous mode is about average at about 3.5 frames per second, but buffer depth was quite good for an entry level SLR, at 13 large/super fine JPEGs or 9 RAW files. Flash recycling after a full power shot is 3.43 seconds, which is fairly quick.

 

Download Speed
Windows Computer, USB 2.0
6,851 KBytes/sec
Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-770=USB 2.0 Low;
More than 770=USB 2.0 High

Download speeds were also quite fast, fast enough that you probably won't feel the need for a separate card reader.


Bottom line, the Olympus E-420 is generally a very responsive camera, able to handle average family shots as well as some faster action. A very good performance for an entry-level model.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery

Average battery life when using the optical viewfinder.

Test Conditions
Number of Shots
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
(CIPA standard)
500
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
Live View
unknown

The Olympus E-420 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and charger. The rated 500 shots per charge using the optical viewfinder is about average for an SLR. Olympus doesn't publish battery life for Live View mode, but you can expect it to be lower, so we recommend getting a second battery.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of on fully-charged battery, based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Olympus E-420 stores its photos on Compact Flash and/or xD memory cards, and no card is included with the camera. The table below shows average file size and capacity figures, as well as approximate compression ratios.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
1GB Memory Card
Super Fine Fine Normal Basic RAW RAW + LSF JPEG
3648 x 2736
Images
(Avg size)
125
8.2 MB
181
5.6 MB
395
2.6 MB
585
1.7 MB
57
17.8 MB
39
25.9 MB
Approx.
Compression
4:1 5:1 12:1 17:1 0.8:1 -
3200 x 2400
Images
(Avg size)
160
6.4 MB
228
4.5 MB
507
2.0 MB
761
1.3 MB
- -
Approx.
Compression
4:1 5:1 11:1 17:1 - -
2560 x 1920
Images
(Avg size)
239
4.3 MB
400
2.6 MB
780
1.3 MB
1,171
874 KB
- -
Approx.
Compression
3:1 6:1 11:1 17:1 - -
1600 x 1200
Images
(Avg size)
676
1.5 MB
982
1.0 MB
1,903
538 KB
2,768
370 KB
- -
Approx.
Compression
4:1 6:1 11:1 16:1 - -
1280 x 960
Images
(Avg size)
1,050
975 KB
1,522
673 KB
2,768
370 KB
4,350
235 KB
- -
Approx.
Compression
4:1 6:1 10:1 16:1 - -
1024 x 768
Images
(Avg size)
1,602
639 KB
2,342
437 KB
4,350
235 KB
6,253
164 KB
- -
Approx.
Compression
4:1 5:1 10:1 14:1 - -
640 x 480
Images
(Avg size)
3,806
269 KB
5,685
180 KB
8,933
115 KB
9,782
105 KB
- -
Approx.
Compression
3:1 5:1
8:1
9:1 - -

The Olympus E-420's images are pretty large. We strongly recommend buying a large capacity Compact Flash or xD-Picture card, at least a 1GB one, preferably a 2 or 4GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings. (Check the shopping link above, cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)

 

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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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