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The Evolt E-510 has image stabilization to help take clear photos when you just can’t hold the camera steady.
With the SLR digital-camera market getting even more crowded, it’s not all that easy to tell cameras apart. Take the Evolt E-410 and E-510. They look alike, and their electronic guts are the same. The Evolt E-510 has a large ergonomic grip and a few more functions and buttons than the slimmer Evolt E-410. The Evolt E-510’s main difference is its image-stabilization feature. If you shoot a lot of photos in moderate light at telephoto settings, this might be a deciding factor in choosing the E-510 over its sibling.
Both cameras have Live View, which allows you to preview your picture on the camera’s LCD the same way you would use an LCD on a point-and-shoot camera. But if you expect Live View to emulate your point-and-shoot pocket camera, you’re in for a disappointment - its implementation felt kludgy to us. To use the Live View mode, you press a button and you hear the mirror pop up and the shutter open, which brings up a preview image on the large, bright, 2.5-inch monitor. The problem is that with the mirror up, the autofocusing sensor can’t operate.
To ensure accurate focus, we had to press the Auto Exposure Lock/AutoFocus Lock button on the camera. The image was then frozen on the screen while the mirror and shutter momentarily closed to allow autofocus and then opened again. Then the image appeared on the LCD with a green dot to tell us that the camera was ready to shoot. This laborious, click-clacking process means it takes more time to take a picture than with most point-and-shoots. You can choose to simply fire the shutter in the normal way, which forces the camera to focus on the fly while it does its song and dance to take a picture. This is faster, but resulted in some out-of-focus pictures.
The delightfully compact Evolt E-410 doesn’t have a big, bulky grip, making it reminiscent of film SLR cameras.
Since both cameras are lightning fast when using the viewfinder, Live View should only be used when necessary. Live View is handy for tight close-ups of objects with the camera firmly planted on a tripod, or when it’s physically easier to look at the LCD rather than to contort your body to peer into the camera’s eyepiece. The LCD on both cameras isn’t articulated, so Live View is virtually useless for framing (and shooting) high- or low-angle pictures. The viewfinders have a slight tunnel effect and we wish they were brighter.
Both cameras turned in super results overall when it came to image quality. We shot pictures under a variety of lighting conditions that gave smooth tonal gradation from shadows to highlights along with excellent color rendition. We also found that, in trying to eliminate noise (the graininess that occurs on some underexposed images), Olympus missed the mark by being too aggressive with its Noise Filter. Pictures were too soft - the result of over-blurring the noise to give an appearance of smoothness. You can correct this by turning the Noise Filter off. Simple enough.
The bottom line. If you shoot a lot of candid action at normal- to wide-angle settings and want a lightweight, compact SLR, the Evolt E-410’s for you. If your telephoto is usually racked out to its limit to capture that winning touchdown or elusive mountain goat, then go for the -510. Either way, you’ll have a great camera.
Hefty grip. Fine picture quality. Uses both XD and CF cards. Built-in image stabilization.
No memory card included. Using Live View creates long shutter lag. Documentation could be clearer.
Extremely compact. Fine picture quality. Uses both XD and CF cards. Reasonably priced underwater housing available.
Memory card not included. Using Live View creates long shutter lag. Documentation could be clearer.