Fun to use, with excellent low-light performance and a cool Live View mode, the Olympus E-620 is a 12.3Mp SLR camera.
Creatives who want to make the move from a compact camera to a digital SLR but are worried about the learning curve and the bulkier size of SLRs should check out the 12.3-megapixel Olympus E-620. It has been designed to be easy to use and it features a body size that's petite when compared to most digital SLRs on the market.
The Olympus E-620 is a traditional Four Thirds digital SLR-based camera, so it still has a mirror box and you can hear (it's loud!) and feel the flip of the mirror every time you take a shot. Despite this, it has very small dimensions: it's 12.9cm wide, 9.5cm high and 7.3cm thick. In this respect it's similar to the Olympus E-420, which is another small digital SLR camera.
It also incorporates technology from the Olympus E-520 (its image stabilisation) and the Olympus E-30 (its art modes). So even though the Olympus E-620 is so small, it offers everything you would expect from a digital SLR camera: sensor-based image stabilisation; a built-in sensor cleaning system; you can change lenses to suit your scene; you can change aperture, shutter and ISO speed on the fly; you can attach your own flash; and you can capture images in RAW mode.
It also has a very useful Live View mode and a flip-out, swivelling screen so that you can take easier self-portraits and low- or high-angled shots. In fact, the Live View mode on the Olympus E-620 is the best implementation we've seen of the technology and it allows you to use the LCD screen to frame your shots just as you would with a compact camera.
The Olympus E-620's screen is crystal clear, so you can easily see if a subject is in focus, and focus adjustments show up in real time on the screen. Not only that, but you don't have to press a separate button to focus while in Live View mode (unlike the Canon EOS 500D, for example). It's also a bright screen that can be viewed outdoors on sunny days.
If you use Live View continuously (we're talking hours here) then it will overheat. When it overheats, a little icon appears on the screen to inform you, and you have to shut down the Olympus E-620 and let it cool. For this reason, it's best to get accustomed to using the optical viewfinder and leave the Live View mode for when you want to take shots from funky angles.
The Olympus E-620 has a 12.3-megapixel sensor with a native 4:3 aspect ratio and it does a good job of capturing vibrant colours. It's also a stellar performer in the dark. You can take shots at ISO 800 without noticing a hint of noise, even when you crop in nice and close.
The Olympus E-620's art modes can be used to give your pictures creative effects such as vignetting (Pin Hole), graininess (Grainy Film), and rich colour saturation (Pop Art) just to name a few - but as usual it's better to apply these in Photoshop. There is also a comprehensive set of scene modes and an auto mode that can guide you through snapping photos if you don't want to manually fiddle with the exposure settings.
When you shoot in manual mode, you can use the control dial to change the shutter and aperture values. Furthermore, all the shooting settings are present on the LCD screen at any one time, and it's just a matter of using the navigation buttons on the rear of the Olympus E-620 (which also illuminate so that you can see what you are pressing in the dark) to select the setting you want to change (such as the shooting mode and focus point, for example).
The Olympus E-620 is available in a kit with two lenses: a wide angle 14-42mm zoom lens and a more far-reaching 40-150mm zoom lens. These are easy to attach and are small and light, meaning that the Olympus E-620 doesn't become a behemoth once you attach your preferred lens. You can, of course, purchase more lenses.
The lenses in the twins lens kit are of very good quality and can produce crystal-clear images without a hint of chromatic aberration. The 14-42mm lens produces some distortion at its widest angle, which was expected, but not enough to ruin the shot.
The Olympus E-620 has a 7-point focus area and focuses quickly, even in low light. You can elect to use single focus or continuous focus operations and you can also manually focus shots yourself.
The camera has quick shot-to-shot performance, but a slow burst mode. We recorded a burst mode rate of 2.25 frames per second in high quality mode, which is much slower than the Canon 500D and the Review: Nikon D5000, for example. It will shoot up to 45 shots on its xD card before slowing down. Despite the camera's small dimensions, it also has a CompactFlash slot, so you can use either type of memory for your storage.
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