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photo:olympuse510

Olympus E-510 dSLR

World's 1st dSLR with in-camera sensor image stabilisation and Live View

see also:

NB. the E510 was superseded by a minor upgrade in mid-2008, the E520 which adds a few features:

  • 11pt continuous contrast-detection AF in Live Preview with certain lenses (kit lenses and 25mm pancake lens)
  • face detection AF
  • shadow adjustment and apparently the E3 sensor to improve dynamic range
  • support for wireless TTL flash, 3.5fps burst rate & up to 8xRAW instead of 3fps and 7xRAW
  • additional IS panning mode
  • optional underwater housing
  • announced May 2008

Main features of the E510:

  • announced March 2007, available June 2007.
  • 10mp upgrade from the E-500 with:
    • the excellent Olympus sensor dust protection mechanism
    • added Live Preview LCD (as for E-410)
    • added mechanical CCD-shift image stabilisation which now works for ANY lens including legacy manual focus lenses such as Olympus OM, Leica R, Carl Zeiss, Nikon F, etc (see firmware 1.3)
      • although Olympus recommend turning IS OFF when using a tripod, experiments by Stan Williams suggest that turning IS on mode 1 is OK on a tripod using the Olympus E510, and may be beneficial in minimising mirror vibrations at shutter speeds 1/30th sec - 4 sec range.
      • also confirmed by Ian Burley's tests.
    • significantly improved digital noise at high ISO 
    • Hi-speed USB 2.0 at last
    • more compact ED kit lenses covering 28-300mm range for twin lens kit
  • 3fps x 7 RAW and unlimited JPEG
  • RAW files are 11Mb instead of 13Mb in the E330
  • image size 3648×2736 at full resolution.

What is so good about this camera?

  • great quality 10mp images in a light and compact dSLR perfect for travel (E410 is even lighter and smaller), and you can use the live preview for the times when you can't physically place your eye on the camera such as when you want to put the camera on the other side of a wire fence (eg. at the top of the Eiffel tower - try composing there with a Canon 400D).
  • sensor dust removal system is a proven technology and seems much more effective than competing technologies.
  • there are some really nice lenses especially designed for this format.
  • see also my comments about the Olympus E330 dSLR.
  • Olympus have made a semi-pro version of this - the Olympus E-3 dSLR which is even better although bigger & heavier.
  • for the 1st time a dSLR has BOTH Live Preview AND image stabiliser which makes this camera perfect for:
    • hand-held ambient lighting of interiors where an ultra-wide angle is needed and tripod is not possible
      • for example, interiors of cathedrals in Rome or urban street scenes in low light
      • combined with the incredible but expensive Olympus ZD 7-14mm f/4 lens, the creative options are suddenly expanded when you now have an ultra wide with IS
        • sure you can get a Canon 400D with Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 but:
          • there is no IS so hand holding at slow shutter speeds to give subject motion effects without camera shake is not as good.
          • you can crank the ISO up on this by 1-2EV which allows you to use faster shutter speeds in low lighting but this will tend to freeze your subjects and not give a creative blur, particularly when you want the image to emphasise the architecture and not the crowds of people. 
          • only gives 16mm wide instead of 14mm
          • optical quality does not match the Olympus 7-14mm
        • if you get the Canon 1D series, there is no lens as wide and none with the optical quality let alone IS capability.
        • if you get a full frame Canon, you can get a 14mm EF lens or a 16-35mm EF but again, these do not have IS, and their sharpness is poor in the periphery of the full frame.
        • if you get Nikon DX, you could get a Nikkor DX 12-24mm which would give a wide angle of 18mm or even wider with Sigma or Tokina lenses, but again, no IS and inferior optical quality.
      • have a look at my urban night photos hand held: here
    • hand-held manual focusing with Live Preview is much more accurate with IS:
      • combined with the Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro, hand-held manual focusing is made even easier with the ability to turn IS on during Live Preview to make it easier to visualise focus and depth of field.
        • the ONLY Canon camera with live preview for accurate manual focusing is the much more expensive, although wonderful Canon 1D Mark III but Canon do not have an IS capable macro solution.
        • Nikon do make an IS macro lens but you need to get the Fuji S5 Pro to have Live Preview with it. 
    • use with legacy MF lenses:
      • not only can you accurately focus these with the live preview magnified image but with the new firmware updates, you can dial in a focal length of the lens and you have in effect converted these to image stabilised lenses - even mirror lenses and Nikon's brand new 24mm tilt-shift lens!
  • Olympus has managed to improve its digital noise profile significantly:
    • but be aware the default noise filter settings result in loss of detail so it may be best to set it to LOW for ISO 200-400 and set sharpness to -2.
    • image noise at high ISO is probably similar to 1 ISO stop difference on Canon/Nikon cropped sensors and perhaps 2 stops difference from the Canon 1D Mark III
    • to offset this though, IS is available for ALL lenses (8mm-1000mm focal length) via the body and Olympus lenses tend to be 1 stop faster than available in Canon/Nikon.
  • Olympus has stuck with only 3 AF points
    • why is this good?
    • it is simpler and forces the user to think about what they are focusing on, for most cases, just set it to ONLY use the centre AF point and lock focus on the subject using this point, then recompose (I set the camera's menu settings so the shutter button does not set AF, that way I don't have to keep my finger half-pressed to lock the focus and risk accidentally taking my finger off and losing it or accidentally triggering the shutter - I do this on the Olympus E330 and even on the Canon 1D Mark III with its 49 AF points).
    • lots of AF points may be of benefit for:
      • sports photographers capturing action, but in my experience with the Canon 1D Mark III, the camera seems to set AF on everything BUT the subject's eyes - hence I routinely only use the centre AF point for stationary subjects and even for sports.
        • remember, the E510 is NOT a pro sports camera and is not designed to be.
      • use on a tripod where changing the composition by moving the camera is a pain - easier to just select another AF point which hopefully lies on your subject.
        • maybe you won't need to use the tripod as much now that you have IS for all digital lenses.
      • cameras with facial detection systems 
        • no dSLR has one that really works - yet.
    • note that AF is faster and works better in lower light levels or for action work on the Olympus E3.
    • although this is not designed for infrared photography, if modified, it would make a PERFECT IR camera as you could compose and manually focus accurately on the Live Preview thus bypassing any inaccuracies in calibration of the AF mechanism.
      • but lack of expertise in modifying the IR filter.
    • results without modifying the camera and using a R72 IR filter on the lens outdoors on a partly cloudy day:
      • set Live Preview boost mode ON so composing and focusing IR is easier (can't do this with the 1DMIII which is much more difficult to compose and focus)
      • with the Olympus E510 Live Preview you can turn IS on which makes accurate focusing even easier if hand held
      • sunlit exposure on the E510 of ISO 800, f/2.0, 1/5th sec
      • interestingly, unlike many other dSLRs, the blue channel does not have as much sensitivity to IR
      • AWB gives a yellow-green caste which as usual for digital IR needs processing in PS.
      • using an f/2.0 lens (the ZD 50mm macro) with a r72 filter, you can only just see sunlit objects in the viewfinder and can compose and AF quite well, alternatively, you can use the live preview.
      • if using auto-exposure, you need to set exposure compensation to ~+5EV (check the red channel in the RGB histogram to determine if this needs to be altered).
      • you can do hand-held IR with R72 filter and IS on in bright sunlight using ISO 400-800 and a fast aperture (eg. f/2.0) as shutter speeds are 1/6th-1/40th sec depending on scene and ISO.
      • in my opinion, as of 2007, of all the latest versions of unmodified dSLRs (excluding the Fuji IR dSLRs), the Olympus E510 is the easiest to use for IR work in bright sunlight. 
  • depth of field is greater than with equivalent configuration on a Canon or Nikon:
    • this is due to the sensor size and is a good thing for macro work and much of travel photography but not so good for portraiture although the 50mm macro at f/2.0 gives a pretty good portrait with good bokeh, as does the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5, and even better on the super pro lenses, the 35-100mm f/2.0 and 50-250mm f/2.8.
  • Live Preview now has:
    • (in addition to Live Mode B functionality on the  Olympus E330)
    • 6x as well as 10x live magnification
    • ability to temporarily activate IS to steady the magnified image to make focus & DOF assessment easier - even works on legacy MF lenses.
    • live histogram
  • RAW file size is smaller
    • means more images per memory card and hard drive

What is not so good about this camera?

  • although I loved this camera when I bought it in 2007, after using the much nicer electronic viewfinders of the latest Micro Four Thirds system cameras, I can't see myself going back to the tunnel-like dim view of an optical pentamirror viewfinder such as in most entry-level digital SLR cameras such as is in the E-510 and Canon and Nikons.
  • let's get this clear, this is not a pro sports camera
    • if you want one of those, buy a heavier, more expensive camera with better AF and burst rates such as the Olympus E5 dSLR, or the even heavier, more expensive still Canon 1D Mark III.
  • this is also not designed for astrophotography
    • while you can do astrophotography with it, and it has some advantages with manual focusing with its Live Preview, there are 3 main problems:
      • noise at high ISO - ideally one wants to use ISO 1600-6400 but on this camera they are just a bit too noisy (and limited to 1600 ISO)
      • lack of specialised astrophotography software support to control the camera
      • lack of expertise in modifying the camera by replacing its IR filter so it can image emission nebulae (those red nebulae which fall in the IR range).
  • Olympus still has not increased the AE bracketing to +/- 2EV (its only +/- 1EV)
    • this makes high dynamic range work a bit more difficult to do as you have to manually take 3 different exposures, setting the EV compensation between each exposure while ensuring aperture remains constant so focus effects are constant.
    • this is available on the Olympus E-3 dSLR
  • dynamic range is limited as expected:
    • clips the highlights by ~0.7EV compared to a Canon or Nikon cropped sensor dSLR as the sensor photosite size is smaller
    • this is one of the main compromises with smaller sensors
    • this is improved on the Olympus E-3 dSLR
  • depth of field is greater
    • see comments above.
  • no flip out LCD:
    • to me, this is a mistake by Olympus, I love the flip out LCD on my E330 and C8080 as it allows easier shooting at waist level or when I have the camera stabilised on my knee, etc.
    • this is available on the Olympus E-3 dSLR
  • no live preview mode A:
    • well you can't have everything, and I wouldn't expect the E510 to have this, I just hope there is a successor to the E330 which has IS and Live Mode A.
    • Live Mode A as on the Olympus E330 dSLR, uses a separate sensor within the viewfinder so it works when the mirror is down and you can still see through the optical viewfinder and still have real time exposure metering and AF.
    • the only current model dSLR that supports this mode is the new Sony a300 and similar, but they have their own problems - lens & flash systems.
  • no Live preview “silent”, instant mode:
    • as with the E330 live preview mode B, when you press the shutter in Live Preview mode, the mirror drops back down so that exposure, AWB and AF can be set, then the mirror goes up and an exposure is taken, this is acoustically noisy and causes a rather long shutter lag.
    • now I can understand this is necessary in the auto modes BUT WHY CAN'T WE have a mode where if white balance has been preset, manual focus is being used or AF has already been set and using manual exposure, then the mirror just stays locked up, we would then have an almost silent imaging mode with almost zero shutter lag.
    • I know, there is no other dSLR with this feature (Canon 1D Mark III almost achieved it), but surely its just a bit of programming to make it work this way!
    • if this camera had this, I could take photos of my daughter's cello recitals without making any noise and distracting her and the audience, imagine how good it would be in church's, during wedding vows, etc.
    • just preset everything and click away without noise - currently, I still use my C8080 for this task.
    • THIS is a MUST HAVE for the next firmware update - PLEASE Olympus can we have this, it would be so easily to implement in software algorithms - if manual exposure and manual WB then don't bring the mirror down to take the photo - EASY!
  • no wireless TTL options:
    • if you are in a hurry or just lazy, then wireless TTL flash can be useful but still may not solve your problems
    • Canon's e-TTL II and Nikon's i-TTL have wireless TTL capability.
    • Olympus version of wireless TTL requires the Olympus E-3 dSLR / E420/E520 or later combined with matching wireless TTL capable flash units with “R” designation on their model numbers.
  • RAW file converters:
    • you need to upgrade from Adobe PS CS2 to CS3 (but no support yet) or use another product such as:
      • Olympus' software
      • Adobe Lightroom (no support yet?)
      • dcRAW
      • Phase One LE (no support yet) - by the way, you can get this for free with certain Sandisk Extreme III cards
      • etc.
  • no AF confirm for legacy MF lenses:
    • this is available on Canon, Nikon, Pentax via AF-confirm enabled adapters - seems like time that Olympus joined in with this functionality.
  • Olympus ZD digital lenses use focus-by-wire MF:
    • the focus-by-wire technology for manual focus feels quite different and can take a bit of getting used to.
    • must say I prefer the old style MF, especially for macrophotography and astrophotography.
  • Olympus have not made underwater housing for this model:
    • Olympus have housings for the E330 and E410 but not the E510.
photo/olympuse510.txt · Last modified: 2012/03/14 21:20 by gary1