While many low-cost digital SLRs are compromised in terms of features, Olympus is bucking the trend with its Olympus Evolt E-510.

The Olympus Evolt E-510 is a 10.2Mp camera, priced at £599 with a standard lens, designed for the photo enthusiast who has a basic sense of photographic technique and wants a camera that can handle almost any situation.

Olympus Evolt E-510 is a solid, flexible camera that takes very good pictures under most conditions.

One of the first things we noticed when picking up the Olympus Evolt E-510 with the standard 14-42mm zoom lens was how light it was: the camera and lens together weigh less than 900g.

The Olympus Evolt E-510 doesn't feel flimsy, however. The body is well-built, and the grip feels comfortable in your hand. Even with the new 40-150mm telephoto zoom lens, you won't feel weighed down.

It's easy to just start shooting. The Olympus Evolt E-510's shutter and exposure compensation buttons are easy to find, and the big control dial on top makes it simple to dial in the shooting mode you want. There are five dedicated scene modes on the dial (portrait, landscape, macro, sports, and night portrait), and another 13 modes accessible via menus, designed to account for shooting situations that range from fireworks to documents to panoramas.

Feature-laden extras

What differentiates the Olympus Evolt E-510 from some of the other DSLRs in its class is the volume of features built into the camera.

For example, the Olympus Evolt E-510 offers 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 - but the Olympus Evolt E-510 can also bracket shots for flash and white balance.

The Olympus Evolt E-510 has two levels of image stabilisation 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.

There are also little extras like variable flash strength, mirror lock-up capability (to further minimize camera shake), and support for both CompactFlash and xD-Picture Card formats.

The Olympus Evolt E-510's Live View mode, which lets you use the 2.5in LCD as a viewfinder, is a handy feature to have, especially for those times when you can't position your eye on the viewfinder to get the shot, but it's not really designed to be used all the time; overuse can heat up the camera's sensor and introduce noise into your images.

After weeks of use, our primary complaint about the Olympus Evolt E-510 is that the interface to some of the advanced features is a bit clunky, but that's tempered by the fact that access to the primary features is intuitive and easy. We also didn't like the fact that there are no focus switches on the Olympus lenses; you need to change the autofocus setting in the camera. Aside from these small issues, however, all the basic functionality an entry-level or serious shooter would like is readily available on the camera.

Features wouldn't be worth much if the Olympus Evolt E-510's pictures weren't of high quality, and Olympus didn't disappoint here either. Color fidelity and saturation were very good, and the E-510 was able to handle most shooting conditions easily. At lower ISO ranges, there is very little noise in E-510's images; as you go to ISO 800 and above, colour noise starts to show up, although it's really not any worse than other cameras in this price range.

Olympus Evolt E-510: Specs

  • 10.2 megapixel sensor
  • zoom/focal length (35mm equivalent): 14-42mm
  • rechargeable lithium ion battery
  • CompactFlash, Microdrive, xD-Picture Card slots
  • 136x91x69mm
  • 7.7kg (without lens)
  • 10.2 megapixel sensor
  • zoom/focal length (35mm equivalent): 14-42mm
  • rechargeable lithium ion battery
  • CompactFlash, Microdrive, xD-Picture Card slots
  • 136x91x69mm
  • 7.7kg (without lens)

OUR VERDICT

Many DSLR vendors are streamlining their offerings to appeal to novices; in the process, they strip out features or skimp on quality. Olympus is taking a different tack. With the Olympus Evolt E-510, you get a full-featured DSLR with more advanced features than just about any similarly priced camera. Getting access to some of those features can be a bit trying, but if you worry that you'll outgrow the functionality of other entry-level DSLRs - and you don't want to spend a bundle to get the features - the Olympus Evolt E-510 is a very good choice.

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